manila: dinner at museum café.

museum cafe

(in case you are interested, here's a very short overview of the neighbourhood.)

our first night there we decided to walk across the street to greenbelt, which houses over a hundred restaurants and food outlets. we were looking for something good (obviously) and possibly not too crowded on an early weekend night, so mariel suggested we try museum café--or m café as it is informally known--attached to the ayala museum.

oh hippy hippy shake, this place reeks of hipness, with concrete floors and tables, white walls and glass, and giant spun thread globe lights overhead. the staff members are jordi labanda illustrations come to life, and the crowd all johnny cashed-out dressed in black. it is slightly intimidating, but in the breezeway between the museum and café there is a lovely outdoor seating area--all candle- and fairylights- lit, with gentle bossanova and chillout music wafting through the trees; along with the relative lack of attitude on the staff's part (just a "we're not snobby, we're really just not here" space-out that passes for discreet), and the row of obscenely luscious desserts on the counter that greets you when you first walk in, m is more inviting that your standard artsy white box.

duhat-lychee shake

like many restaurants in manila, there is usually some sort of fruit shake (made by blending fresh fruit and ice together) on the menu, quite refreshing in the tropical heat. m has the typical ones--green mango, melon, and calamansi--but a couple of unusual ones as well. i had one made from duhat and lychee, which was sweet and delicate.

codfish balls duck rolls

we started with codfish balls skewered on lemongrass, and duck rolls with hoisin sauce. i don't remember what kind of sauce was served with the fried cod, but they were flavourful and almost uncomfortably meaty for fishballs. unlike other processed fish products there were noticeable chunks of cod throughout, and the frying sealed in its juiciness. the duck rolls were flour tortillas filled with skinless dark duck meat, julienned carrots, radish, cucumbers, and lettuce, and were quite light and fresh. there was definitely more vegetables than duck meat (i thought it could've stood to have a little more duck), but the meat was tender and not stringy. they were served with a side of tasty, ungreasy kropek, a type of airy, crispy prawn chip.

pumpkin curry catfish green mango salad

i shared an order of the pumpkin curry soup, which was a coconut milk-based soup with puréed pumpkin and a light indian-style curry spice. it was served with a poppadom (a chickpea flour crispbread) on the side. i found the soup to be nicely spiced, not overwhelming the pumpkin. it was perfectly pleasant, but truthfully, i didn't find it especially exciting--maybe a little more kick would've knocked my fussy boots off. i was also slightly underwhelmed by my green mango salad with fried catfish. i was expecting the catfish to come in larger pieces, but it turned out to be catfish flakes that were fried in a batter, like fish-flavoured bacon bits. they were crunchy but not hot, and while the rest of the salad was the same slightly-above-roomish-temperature (as expected), i think if the catfish bits were a little warmer then the flavour of the fish would have improved. however, there was a generous amount of catfish, not-too-sour julienned green mango, and the whole dish was balanced out by the chopped cashews, tomatoes, and green onions with a sweet and sour vinaigrette. the dish turned out to be an excellent palate cleanser for the rich pumpkin curry soup.

seared scallop and pomelo salad

i was definitely having a case of food envy, as my companions' dishes looked more interesting and seemed to satisfy them more than mine did. i tried the seared scallop and pomelo salad, which had a nice amount of sweet scallops, pomelo segments, cashews, and mint amidst the lettuce and the patis (fermented fish sauce)-spiked dressing.

5 spice duck

i also had a bite of the succulent asian five spice marinated duck (which was described as duck breast on the menu, but actually was a duck leg). it was served on a bed of sautéed kangkong (water spinach), with a side of rice.

chicken adobo with foie gras

i didn't actually try this next dish, but it was very intriguing: chicken adobo with pan-seared foie gras and topped with a fried quail's egg, and served with a side of kangkong tempura and mashed potatoes. it looked a little crazy, but it smelled divine--i won't question it until i get to try it sometime.

banana tart

we ended the night sharing two desserts, a caramelized banana tart with pastillas de leche ice cream, and a sampler of chocolate crème brûlées. the banana tart had a generous amount of perfectly caramelized (saba? might've been a different variety) bananas, on an okay puff pastry base. i couldn't tell if the ice cream was just vanilla ice cream with bits of pastillas de leche, a rich, milky sugary candy, or if it ice cream made with pastillas de leche ingredients. either way, it somehow managed to be rich, yet not cloying, and accompanied the bananas nicely. [ps--banana tart comes with spicey song--scroll through comments]

3 chocolate brulees

there were three chocolate crème brûlées: dark chocolate with ginger, white chocolate with thai basil, and dark chocolate with chili pepper. they were exquisitely done, with a thin but firm burnt sugar layer, a nicely done chocolate base, and the infused flavours subtle, yet with a kick that intensified with every bite. the majority of the table preferred the chocolate with chili, but i gave a slight edge to the almost anise-like thai basil one. heavenly.

i like m café, despite my disappointment in a couple of dishes. service was decent, but some of the dishes arrived much later than others, and towards the end of the evening our server disappeared almost completely. however, the room and atmosphere could have been cold and haughty, but it seemed like the staff and customers were a relatively genial bunch, and the warm scent of caramel wafting from the dessert bar helped immensely. it can be a little pricey for the philippines (entrees range from P250 to P595-US4.60 to US$10.80), for what could be a "nouvelle" amount of food. however, the lunch menu should be reasonable, and i'm rather excited by the fact that they open up at 6.30 am for breakfast. anybody care to join me for a chicken curry omelette or banana peanut butter waffles next time i'm in town?

museum (m) café
ayala museum, greenbelt
makati ave (cor. dela rosa street)


[raises hand!]

they have something called asian high tea, maybe we should try that.

Oooh! I do like M Cafe too...although I also have experienced the dishes coming at different times (some taking much longer than others). And I actually have gone there at 6:30 am for breakfast. No, am not crazy, just a breakfast person :-)

I need to go to the Philippines RIGHTNOOOOW!

The desserts look so good. Mraarh! *sob*

That crispy catfish salad has been making the rounds of pricey restaurants for years now. I think it started in a small Thai restaurant, forgot which one now.

I've only eaten at M Cafe once. I was really disappointed with the service and the food. In two words: Nothing Special. But hey, I didn't know they open at 6:30 for breakfast. I'll give that a try.

Thanks for the virtual food trip!

uh-oh. two restos joey and i had a good experience at, and now two restaurants i liked that toni does not! toni, maybe you should check my reviews--anything i like that you haven't been to you can avoid :D joey, what did you order for breakfast, and toni, what did you order that you didn't like?

robyn--let's meet in the philippines, there's at least 99 restaurants in greenbelt i haven't tried yet!

hi karen! i saw it on a lot of menus, but this was the only time i tried it. is it always prepared the same way?

Oh boy that duck looks good and that fried quail egg is oh-so-cute.

I love the presentation of the creme brulees too. Did you fight over the garnishes? =)

My muse comes at odd times but now I've got Lux Interior's lawyers all over mah back.

hi gloop! i was just admiring your banh xeo. no one fought. very amiable crowd, us. :)

anth--crampin' your style? bwahaa.

Nyuck Nyuck

Hi Santos!
Would have loved to try the variation of crème brûlées! Just laid my hands on preparing chocolate crème brûlée myself some weeks ago and what can I say - there's no way back ;)

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th--goo goo muck!

hello nicky--i remember your chocolate crème brûlée post! chocolate's not my favourite sweet, but i wonder if i'll find a typical vanilla crème brûlée lacking without the addition of white chocolate....

Thank you for this post! I think I'm definitely going to try to recreate those creme brulees, and the menu items also give me some good ideas.

hallo mia! i have no doubt that with your culinary skills you can come up with an inspired meal. let me know what you come up with!

For breakfast I had the waffles (the waffles themselves were just ok, what was nice was the little condiments they were served with: peanut butter, maple syrup, whipped cream, and some fruit compote thingy) and one of their versions of Eggs Benedict which had smoked salmon and asparagus on veggie bread :-) Didn't know about the asian high tea though...maybe I should try that...

ooh. i'll bet it's really nice inside during the day, esp. with the morning light streaming through. we need to find out what this asian high tea is all about.

Hmmm... I don't remember what I had. It was that forgettable. *L* I'll take Joey's advice on the waffles and Eggs Benedict though! :)