Is it me, or do the restaurants I’ve been reviewing lately just have very interesting names? I can’t think of Patisserie Caroline Bakery Cafe in Little Baguio, San Juan without the Neil Diamond song, Sweet Caroline, playing in my head. It’s that kind of inviting place that makes you want to try everything. Of course, being surrounded by scrumptious baked goods certainly helps. How did they know that I have a weakness for pastries?!
I was invited to this quaint cafe by Zomato for a Foodie Meet-up, a chance for foodies to get to know each other and a new restaurant. All I can say is: It’s fun to geek out on food with those who appreciate it the same way.
Patisserie Caroline is a small cafe with an intimate mood and a simple design. It’s not one of those distinctly themed cafes, but the setup is cozy enough for those who want to sit, eat, and chat. The display cases and shelves are filled with pastries, so you’ll make no mistake of the highlight of this cafe. (That and the very name of the establishment, of course.)
The mirienda started with a cup of Iced Hong Kong-style Milk Tea. Strong black tea is toned down by plenty of ice and evaporated milk. Usually, I can only get this type of milk tea fix in a legit Cantonese restaurant or a Singaporean/Malaysian kopi tiam, so I was pleasantly surprised that a coffee shop with primarily Western dishes would serve it—and serve it well, at that.
The Salad Caroline was actually very popular at our table. Everyone enjoyed how the satisfyingly tangy dressing was balanced with the sweetness of the mango. It’s also fun to chew on juicy tomatoes and crunchy walnuts. Plus, the generous serving of chicken means that this salad is quite filling.
I’m a Clubhouse fan, and this hit the spot. Fresh ingredients are a huge deal in multi-layer sandwiches, and this did not disappoint. Notice how generous they are with the fillings/toppings? You’re not leaving this place hungry. In fact, just the salad and sandwich already left us feeling full. I’d recommend the Clubhouse as a snack for sharing.
If you have an appreciation for olive oil-based pasta sauces, then you’ll appreciate Pasta con Sarde just as much. Spanish sardines aren’t cheap, and they did not skimp out on the good stuff. It was a little too spicy for my liking, though I admit to having alternating moods between “more chili powder, please” and “I can’t touch the stuff”. Also worth mentioning is how they didn’t overload it with the oil. There’s nothing I hate more than an oil-based sauce with extra, extra oil. Can you say “overkill”?
If you’re looking for a safe dish, this is some pretty standard stuff. Pasta Neptuno, pomodoro sauce with tuna, is the crowd-pleaser in the fancy pasta category. It’s right up there with Carbonara. No problem with the execution or flavor.
It’s dessert time! Calamansi Dacquoise is Patisserie Caroline’s signature dessert. I’m struggling to describe this, and I’ve settled on calling it a cross between Brazo de Mercedes and Sans Rival. Brazo de Mercedes because of the yema (chewy, soft egg yolk candy) filling. Sans Rival because of the crispy dacquoise. However, the similarities end there. Both Brazo and Sans Rival are incredibly rich desserts, whereas Calamansi Dacquioise keeps things light. The whipped cream isn’t loaded up with milk fat, and the zest adds freshness to each bite.
I mentioned above that they don’t skimp out on the star ingredients, and the desserts are no different. You want Bailey’s? You got it! The flavor is so strong that I would most definitely recommend sharing this dessert with two or three others. Personally, I’m not a fan of alcohol-flavored dessert—with the exception of Kahlua—but I can see how those who like a strong “hit” would appreciate this. The price isn’t that expensive, considering the quality of the dessert.
Lightly-flavored and none too sweet, though this is the part where I wish for something more buttery. (Fear not the milk fat!) I’m used to a more hedonistic Sans Rival, so eating that particular dessert means that I’m fully prepared to get sinful.
Again, they take something traditionally rich and make it much lighter. The frozen factor already sightly numbs the tongue, so the dessert is instantly perceived as less sweet. Then the calamansi tempers the meringue and yema layers. I should mention that I love a graham cracker crust on anything.
Verdict: I think it’s a good idea for a shop that originally sells goods via kiosk and bazaar to have a home base where people can just sit down and eat at a leisurely pace, especially for those who want to enjoy an entire meal from appetizer to dessert. It shows that the culinary talent isn’t limited to sweets. The Salad Caroline and Pasta con Sarde were the highlights. With the desserts, I strongly appreciate that extra Pinoy touch they give by adding distinctly Filipino ingredients like calamansi and mango. Furthermore, I like how controlled the sweetness on the desserts is. I doubt they’ll be getting complaints of their best-sellers being too sweet.
*I went to this event/meet-up courtesy of Patisserie Caroline and Zomato. While I got to dine free-of-charge, opinions expressed here are entirely my own.