Mouthwatering grilled cheese sandwich dipped in tangy tomato soup, grilled ensaymadas slathered with bacon and chocolate, moist cheese cupcakes to constantly crave for. A mom-inspired bakery has them all, and more. And Bakerē Café in Kapitolyo does prove a point: delicious comfort food is best served with carbs.
Bakerē Café is an ode to Eleanor Calo Galang, owner RJ Galang's mother whose pastries and desserts have a cult following. Think of the sweets every mom and tita in your family enjoys eating and giving away during Christmas — homebaked ensaymadas, food for the gods, cookies, cupcakes. These are Eleanor's specialties, and now with the cafe in Kapitolyo, they find a new home alongside a food menu that RJ created with his cousin, Chef Miko Calo. Until today, all of the pastries and desserts are made fresh daily at the home kitchen and sent to Bakerē.
"The baked goods are already from her, we figured that the food should also be somehow reflective of her," RJ shares. "Also, we liked the stuff that we ate growing up. So if it's not inspired by her, it's something that she likes." While customers can order his mom's popular pastries by the box (order at least one day in advance), now they can also sit back and enjoy freshly prepared food at the cafe.
In my mind, the perfect cafe makes four things well: coffee, sandwiches, pasta, and dessert. I discover three pasta dishes at Bakerē one afternoon: Carbonara (P245), Amatriciana (P255), and Lasagna (P375). Carbonara is my least favorite kind of pasta, as I tend to gravitate towards tomato based pasta (tomato-based anything, for that matter), as the Filipino style of the egg-and-bacon classic tends to be much too creamy. Bakerē's isn't like this, well balanced with the saltiness of bacon and just enough sauce touches the al dente strands of pasta. I've found one carbonara I don't mind ordering again.
The amatriciana is a favorite, the flavors not too spicy, while the lasagna is equal parts satisfying and nostalgia-inducing. You know how trays of this layered pasta always have everyone fighting for the corner pieces to get those crisp ends? At the cafe, they'll always have the crunchy sides for every order, as they have special molds for their lasagna to make sure you always get those burnt ends.
Moving on to sandwiches–if you only have space for a couple, better make it Bakerē Café's Grilled Cheese (P250) and their signature sandwich, BXU (P335). The grilled cheese, warm and gooey when served, is made with three kinds of cheeses and absolutely fulfills all your cheesy desires in every bite. Pair it with their tangy tomato soup, and you're all set.
The BXU, or the Butuan lechon sandwich, I discovered, was the foundation of the cafe's menu. RJ shares that it was the item that they needed to perfect and serve–that they wouldn't open shop if they didn't execute this sandwich properly. And thank goodness they did.
The BXU sandwiches slices of Butuan lechon and pieces of its crunchy skin in between ciabatta, and balancing the rich and meaty flavor profile is homemade slaw with coconut vinegar, and a creamy sauce. Every big bite gives you salty, meaty, a little sour, a little sweet. The chicharon crunch is absolutely addicting. "She never made this sandwich," RJ shares about his mother, "But my mom's side (Calo) is from Butuan, and it's our tribute to Butuan." Chef Miko, his cousin, is also a Butuanon.
The Butuan lechon is indeed crave-worthy, and it has also made customers request it with rice — we're in the Philippines after all, where extra rice is mandatory for anything flavorful in your meal. Now the BXU also comes as a rice bowl (BXU rice/P290) and it's got that down-home appeal similar to how a sisig satisfies the appetite. Another rice bowl that's comforting is Meatballs with Gravy (P260) — simple, meaty, saucy, and delicious.
For coffee seekers, finish off your meal or kickstart the day with their selection of hot and cold beverages, with beans coming from Toby's Estate. While I tend to order my usuals for coffee–Bakerē's Gibraltar (P130) hits the spot–try something different like the rich and velvety Bicerin (P155). If you love mocha, then this one will most likely win your heart: it's a shot of espresso layered with melted dark chocolate.
Don't miss out on the cafe's grilled ensaymada, which uses Tita Eleanor's homemade ensaymada and brings it to more indulgent heights, by serving it with different toppings or turning it into a sandwich. Both Grilled Ensaymada with Bacon Jam (P165) and Grilled Ensaymada Sandwich with Chocolate (P185) will make you feel extra festive each bite, soft buttery pastry meeting melted chocolate, and salty-sweet bacon jam. Best part is that these lovely carb-loaded treats are not just here for the holiday season, but are in it for the long run.
Bakerē Café is located at the ground floor of Brixton building on 3 Brixton Street, Kapitolyo, Pasig. The cafe is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm, and Sunday from 11am to 6pm. Follow Bakerē on Facebook and Instagram (@bakerebakery).