Say Hello to Your New Brunch Spot in Makati
It brings together the familiar and new.
Aruga Café by Mesclun
G/F Aruga by Rockwell, Waterfront Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati City
Open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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The restaurant has been around since 2015, but Katrina Kuhn-Alcantara and her team at Mesclun took over in July 2017 and revamped the menu. The interiors are the same and still reminiscent of a tastefully decorated living room. The restaurant is designed in muted neutral cream and green colors while large modern chandeliers hang from the ceiling and rustic prints cover the walls. There is nothing too garish or bold about the interiors, but having such a simple and brightly lit space is also another way to highlight the new offerings
It’s apparent that Katrina, who is half-Swiss and has studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, knows what it means to make good food. Aruga Café, now co-branded with her other restaurant, Mesclun, offers dishes that have been perfected over her years of experience in the restaurant industry. But the food is by no means traditional and “safe,” which isn’t immediately obvious from the well-curated menu decorated with beautiful watercolor illustrations. In fact, the word mesclun itself means “mixture,” particularly of fresh greens. This theme of mixing fresh and tasty ingredients in unique combinations runs through the dishes on the menu.
The Sisig Spaghetti (P295), for instance, may not sound appetizing by name. But it’s topped with crunchy and almost powdery
French Onion Soup
Goat Cheese Salad
Meanwhile, the classic French Onion Soup (P270) has just the right consistency that's not too watery nor thick. The broth's flavor is mild, which makes for a good pair with the dish’s sharp and gooey gruyère and Emmental cheeses that overflow and cover almost the entire bowl. The Goat Cheese Salad (P475), made up of arugula, baked goat cheese, and walnuts, is also full of familiar, pleasing flavors. The arugula is crisp, peppery, and fresh, while the goat cheese is tangy and binds everything together with its creaminess.
Guava Pork Adobo
Another noteworthy dish is the Guava Pork Adobo (P385). Mixed in the sauce between pieces of pork are small chunks of guava that are sweet, tart, and crunchy. While the pork is tender and juicy, it’s really the guava that makes this dish such a standout. The sweetness of the fruit combined with the savory sauce makes you think—why hasn’t anyone done this before?
Wagyu Rump Steak
The Wagyu Rump Steak (P1,795) is one of the more straightforward items on the menu, but Katrina reveals that they use a rump cut, which is typically known for being leaner and having less fat. The steak is still juicy and tender, though, and can arguably be a strong contender for the best steak in Makati. It’s served with both gravy and chimichurri sauce, but you should certainly try the latter for a nice contrasting, garlicky and peppery flavor.
The best pick for dessert is the Ube Cheesecake (P340). The recipe was formulated by one of Katrina’s former interns and now pastry chef Rose Valderrama. Most cheesecakes drown in too much sweetness, but Aruga Café’s ube cheesecake has a nice light, creamy, and cheesy flavor, plus a graham crust that crumbles perfectly.
Aruga Café may be in a relatively small space but it certainly holds many surprises. It just seats about 50 people, which makes it a good place for intimate occasions and parties. Every third Thursday of the month, the restaurant hosts cheese nights where people can enjoy six glasses of boutique wine and unlimited specialty cheeses. Thanks to everything it offers, Aruga Café exhibits a perfect marriage of indulgence and laid-back comfort perfect for a relaxing brunch or afternoon retreat in the middle of the city.
Photos by Hans Fausto