New Restaurant Alert: Cafe De Seoul at One Archer’s Place, Manila

A Korean joint quite unlike any other

Cafe De Seoul
2/F One Archer’s Place, Taft Avenue, Malate, Manila
Tel. No.  46-8038, 0917-870-2004
Open from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. (Monday to Thursday), 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. (Friday to Sunday)

 

This sweet cafe has a lot of surprises.

 

(SPOT.ph) The easy access to various types of cuisine-from Japanese to Mexican to even Balkan-has made the search for authenticity all the more important to the everyday gourmand (and those who claim to be so).

 

Geometric chairs add a bit of pizzazz.

 

Posting a photo is free for all.

 

The clean lines and cool vibe of Cafe De Seoul doesn’t exactly show the "authentic" Korean experience painted for us by the flamboyant choices of the Wonder Girls, Super Junior, and Psy. Instead, the vibrance is shown in hints: unlike other coffee shops with sleep-inducing, coffee-buying dim lighting, the H-shaped space is bright with halogen lights and glass windows that give customers a glimpse of the lobby below. White walls and tan furniture make up majority of the color scheme, creating a more urban, even sophisticated look. There’s color, but it’s restrained to turquoise trimming and a few red chairs. Little kitsches and quirks that make Korea distinct are strategically placed near the narrow entrance: a wire installation where you can hang quoted "locks of love" akin to the ones at N Seoul Tower, a tree-shaped lattice where one can pin photos, and a colorful Post-It wall bearing people’s impression of the cafe. It’s an experience of the subdued side of South Korea, the one they don’t always show you on variety shows.

 

Locks are available at the counter.

 

This area is framed by shelves holding imported magazines and other knickknacks.

 

The difference, it seems, stems from the fact that the cafe is a homegrown Filipino brand owned, operated, and developed by Korean Jeon Woong. Around 90% of their materials are sourced from Korea, with the exception of a few ingredients that are best used fresh. The interior design is care of Design A Works, a Korean firm also responsible for creating the aesthetic of global technology giant, Samsung. Built for a Filipino and Korean clientele-students hard at work is the common scenery-the pastry-heavy menu features variety that goes well beyond Melona popsicles.

 

Sweet Kies: the flavor is akin to Yan-Yan breadsticks

 

"Hammered" Sweet Kies

 

The Sweet Kies (P105), for instance, is a delicious kind of therapy posing as a cabbage-sized pastry. Available in dark chocolate, strawberry, and white chocolate, the plastic-wrapped ball of flaky dough (similar to a toasted pilipit) is served with a wooden hammer. The trick is to hold it (still in the plastic) with one hand then hit it with the mallet until it breaks into manageable pieces.  The puff pastry doesn’t have any of the bold flavors displayed by the likes of kimchi or chapchae: The flavor of the bread is toned down, with a sweetness from the chocolate, a perfect partner when cramming for a paper or finishing the last pages of a textbook. For a bigger challenge-and just as curative, depending on the occasion-is the monstrous bowl of Seoul Bing Soo (P210 to P260), Korea’s answer to the halo-halo. Shaved ice that’s so fine it’s creamy serves as the base for a smorgasbord of red beans, plain cubes of mochi, lots of peanuts, peanut powder, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup. Tossing the ingredients together requires some muscle, but the effort is worth it. The crunch of the peanuts melds with the softness the mochi as the grainy peanut powder layers some contrast against the luscious ice.

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Seoul Bing Soo

 

Can you guess which drink is which from the three we mentioned?

 

Crispy waffles

 

The sweets work well on their own, but they’re designed to go with Cafe De Seoul’s signature drinks, one of which is the popular White Chocolate Mocha (P140 to P155) that highlights the aromatic bitterness of coffee rather than masking it with sugar or cream. For a taste of the tropics, the Ddalgi Sonagi (P155 to P165) is an excellent reliever against the heat. The brightly hued mocktail is layers of pink, white, and blue: kiwi and strawberries create a sweet tangy refreshment while non-alcoholic curacao gives it a pleasantly bitter edge that keeps the thick drink from becoming too overwhelming. For an afternoon of chilling or light banter with friends, the Honey Yuja Seoul Tea (P130 to P145) is both invigorating and calming. The mellow beverage capitalizes on its simplicity; the fresh flavor is similar to the clean taste of lemonade with pieces of lemon peel at the bottom that you have to occasionally stir.

 

As of now, an order of waffles, which are popular in Korea, is the only option substantial enough to be considered a meal.

 

The interiors take inspiration from airport design.

 

The place is primarily intended to serve as a hangout, says marketing director Nigel Lim. While you can easily get your iced tea to go, the airy bright promises of the cafe and the selection of magazines are enough of a lure to get you to stay and relax for a bit. Take the time to explore the eclectic space and it’ll confirm your initial impression that Cafe De Seoul goes beyond the basic coffee-shop te0mplate. The cocktail tables, set on the farthest side from the counter, have Samsung tablets embedded on them complete with apps (you may also download apps of your preference), Wi-Fi, and other student and office essentials. In the middle of the room, a huge mirror is installed on the ceiling. That it serves to make the already wide space appear bigger is the first notion, but function precedes form and it fulfills another purpose apart from aesthetic. "It’s for taking photos," clarifies Lim, amused. Position your camera, look up with your block barkada, and smile. #groupselfie. It’s little details like these that make you believe the owners know what they’re doing and who they’re doing it for.

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