Sourdough Café Brings Exceptional Handmade Bread And European-Inspired Dishes To QC
Food made with love and superb technique. P.S. the wines are good, too
Quezon City’s best-kept secret may just be Sourdough Cafe, a bakery and 60-seater café that transforms into a wine lounge in the evenings. It's tucked away in the heart of Morato, although sometimes easily overlooked with glass-enclosed confines, sheltering it from the main thoroughfare. Sourdough Café has kept a low profile since it opened last year, but it's undoubtedly gaining a steady reputation for excellent food, and now has a following amongst discerning aficionados who have become fans of its rustic offerings and quality wines.
Every day at 9 a.m., the display area metamorphoses into a bustling center as the signature sourdough boules are flipped into the deck oven. An hour later, the country loaves are ready to be ripped and devoured by its eager buyers, as the numbered boules are arranged on a sunlit display counter. If this was an open area, the scent alone would envelope passersby with its tangy embrace, enticing them to spend a leisurely hour or two discovering the quaint charms of this hidden alcove.
I have often been known to judge a restaurant by its bread, and I was ecstatic to have this become a reality that exceeded my expectations at Sourdough Café. Imagine digging into thickly blistered loaves with golden crusts, while inhaling that tangy interior. This bread yields a tart bite that never disappoints.
The heart of this bakery rests on their almost year-old sourdough starter (nicknamed Mother), which will be celebrating its birthday this March. It combines with 12.5 per-cent hard wheat flour to yield 12-hour and 40-hour proof sourdough loaves with stunning flavor.
On weekends, the bakers rotate flavors to produce Chocolate Wheat Sourdough studded with Callebaut chocolate, Rye Raisin Sourdough created with German rye and raisins, and Cranberry Walnut Sourdough blended with dried cranberries and walnuts. One might say that , while man can’t live on bread alone, Sourdough Café certainly makes that adage more achievable.
The man behind these glutinous creations is Chef Alvin Ong, whose day job as chef consultant for Potatoes USA has fed his instinctive curiosity to pore over recipes and make new discoveries while traveling. His latest trip had him bringing home freshly-baked loaves from the famed Parisienne bakery Poilâne, along with a fresh hoard of the cookbooks he often references.
Although he's loved eating breads since he was a kid — a passion that carried over into his adulthood when he would splurge on Wildflour Café’s discounted breads at the end of the day — he never imagined he would one day be owning his own bakery-café, or that naturally fermented dough would be the centerpiece of his bakery lineup.
“I actually failed my first bread baking class,” Alvin laughs heartily as he recalls his bread baking modules under Chef Instructor Bubbles Cruz-Lerias at the Center for Culinary Arts, Manila in early 2000. Adding water to the dough without checking first resulted in a slack dough, which might have been a portent that he would be doing a high hydration bread in the future.
Years later, with the introduction of European style breads in the market, Alvin decided to make his own bread, digging deep into the books of Eric Keyser and Paul Hollywood. That instinctive decision has yielded a bounty of fresh loaves loved by regulars who have been reserving the limited baker’s dozen released everyday.
Sourdough Café is more than just its bakery, though. Its savory attractions are helmed by Executive Chef Ryan Vergara, who collaborated with Alvin to create something truly unique for the community. A glance at the menu showcases the European inspiration that spans more than just one region and provides the palate with a gustatory exploration of flavors.
First time diners will be intrigued by the carefully crafted selection of dishes meant to arouse curiosity and discovery not just of each dish, but also the country it hails from. For instance, the Spanish Queso Fundido, splendidly combining cheese and chorizo.
One of the winners from the kitchen was definitely the Shakshouka, redolent with tomatoes and spices. It diners to swipe the luscious sauce with accompanying sourdough slices.
A unique menu item includes freshly-made flatbreads, with the dough prepared daily and rolled out upon order. Paired with a specially braised marinara sauce for most of the flatbreads, it is an exciting addition for afternoon snack options. The current favorite is the Prosciutto Arugula Flatbread, topped with mozzarella slivers, Prosciutto slices and arugula leaves pairs well with the zesty marinara sauce.
Freshly-made pasta is just one of the reasons to try Sourdough’s pasta variations. Their version uses dehydrated potatoes to create just the right al dente finish for that sought after texture and bite. In this dish, the Café’s raison d’etre shines through. “We use real ingredients and there are no shortcuts,” Chefs Alvin and Ryan affirm.
The pastas are just one example of how classics can be done (and should always be done), right from the simple Cacio e Pepe to the Carbonara, with the sauce lingering on the pasta, rather than forming a gooey puddle at the bottom of the dish.
The authentic flavors of Sourdough Café’s Carbonara explodes in the mouth, with the traditional ingredients of guanciale, cured pig’s cheeks, which they dry aged in a chiller for a month to get the right texture, eggs and fresh pasta. Perfetto!
A favorite entrée for regulars is the fork-tender Wagyu Osso Buco. This Lombardi classic is masterfully done to showcase its rustic flavors, with fall-off-the-bone wagyu shanks braised for four hours in tomatoes, red wine and herbs.
Their other dishes are just as enticing, displaying the same careful preparation such as the Poulet a la Normande, chicken leg quarters braised in white wine vinegar, Italian ham and apples.
Meant for sharing, the Wagyu Osso Buco served with mashed potatoes and vegetables is extremely satisfying to the last bite.
The à la carte desserts are a natural end to any meal. It is highly recommended to reserve for the Basque Burnt Cheesecake, as only a few cakes are baked every day. The rich creamy layer made in-house is not to be missed.
Chef Alvin admits it took them months to perfect this dessert, which has now become a staple for regulars
A good selection of wines in both Sourdough Café (and the Glass Wine Lounge on its second floor) affords the perfect accompaniment for every meal. Enjoy wines by the glass, bottle, wine flights or unlimited wine promos, which creates for a lovely communal experience over incredible glasses of wine.
Unlimited wine promotions at P599 are worth it, especially with pours that are a notch above the typical house pours in other establishments.
Sourdough Café is a welcome addition for Quezon City habitués, a place that imbibes the traditional value and rustic charms of old world Europe, with some modern additions that invites a leisurely exploration of its seasoned selection of breads, food and wines.