From Vuco Fye to Poblacion
At a time when several food establishments have closed shop or pivoted to strictly online commerce, celebrated Kapampangan Chef Sau del Rosario has taken the proverbial tiger by the tail, and has relocated his popular Angeles eatery Cafe Fleur to Poblacion, Makati. It’s a bold move that several may question, but Sau has always been one to be daring and to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, and he’s making his move now, planting his roots in Makati, so that when the Poblacion ‘renaissance’ happens, he’ll be in the thick of things.
I’m a fan of Fleur’s crispy pork belly with kare-kare sauce; and would look forward, in pre-pandemic times, to road trips that would allow us to swing by Angeles City and dine in his eatery. I’ll have to wait a bit longer, for his Bistro Fleur to open in April. Cafe Fleur has been positioned to provide lighter fare; some dishes recalling his stint in Paris, and other dishes form part of his reminiscing about the comfort food of his youth… and the music as well!
When we dined at Cafe Fleur, coming out of the speakers was the OPM music of yesteryears, including “Laki sa Layaw” and “Mr. DJ.” It’s Chef Sau asking us to join him on his culinary and auditory trip down Memory Lane. And believe me, you’ll be happy you took this trip.
Before I dwell on the food that’s served in Cafe Fleur, let me first digress about Sau and his self-deprecating personality. During the pandemic, he took his Lola’s special buko pie recipe, and in true-Kapampangan fashion, rechristened it as Vuco Fye. And it was one of the more popular items to order, and enjoy at home during 2020. You’ll find it here at Fleur Poblacion, along with his tsokolate heg Fye, and his Vananah walnut cake.
As you enter Cafe Fleur at 5893 Enriquez St., you’ll also see his panaderia items and his ready dips and sauces in jars – the truffle tinapa is a new favorite. It’s all part of celebrating the Filipino at Cafe Fleur, and making one feel this is a veritable “second home away from home.” The interiors also mirror this celebrating of family and things Pinoy. And there’s an al fresco dining area that should prove to be really popular, as it’s got a lounge-y vibe.
For starters, from their small plates, we went for the crab cakes with calamansi aioli; and it comes with a small salad. The aioli is to die for, it’s like you wanted to bring some home to serve as your snack dip for the week. The Cafe Fleur signature champignons pasta dish is a must-share, good for three to four people. There’s four types of mushrooms; enoki, oyster, shiitake, and shimeji, and they all blend together beautifully with the capellini noodles.
Remember what I said about sharing, as the spiced boneless chicken a la plancha with wilted spinach was worth the price of admission alone. There are capers and a sharp, piquant sauce that made this pressed chicken dish, swimming in butter, one to truly remember. I mentioned how some menu items are reverential nods to his time in Paris, so what can be more “French kitchen” than canard? The duck leg confit lemongrass with spiced cauliflower is Sau’s tweaking this traditional dish, the cauliflower purée artfully positioned to add to the range of flavors emanating from this dish.
We had the famous Vananah walnut cake and it’s especially dense, with big chips of Malagos chocolate, a generous serving of walnuts, all embedded in the banana cake. Expect this one to get you full, and share the generous slice with a friend – he or she will be a friend for life when you do this. The smoothies are not to be missed. We tried the Green smoothie – kiwi, honeydew, avocado, mint, and lime. But I have my eye on the Red smoothie for the next visit – strawberry, beetroot, raspberry, and ginger. The Yellow smoothie is mango, papaya, peach, jackfruit, and tumeric. They’re all super-healthy (and filling), refreshing concoctions.
Chef Sau introduced us to resident Cafe Fleur chef Oye Panganiban; and promised me that by April or May, with the opening of Bistro Fleur on nearby Kalayaan, I’ll get to indulge in the pork Belly in kare-kare sauce once again. Sau, I’m holding you to your word; but in the meantime, can I say you have a true winner in Cafe Fleur. Light is relative, and some of the dishes here are truly generous and for sharing – but they all are comfort food with a wonderful twist, and I for one, will be back.
Welcome back to Makati!