Chef Cocoy is the creative director of the Coffee Heritage Project, a movement that promotes collaboration among partner farmers, scientists, soil specialists, etymologists, and anyone interested in Philippine coffee and its real value. More than caffeine, it’s passion that powers the chef who not only looks after the SGD Coffee brands (SGD Coffee Bodega, SGD Coffee Roastery, and SGD Coffee Mobile Brew), but also the Coffee Heritage House, Cup to Farm, Coffee Planting Project, Coffee Trading, Coffee Science Center, and the Manila Coffee Festival.
The vintage record lounge in the entrance of the cafe might make it easy for some to walk past it, and I nearly did, if not herded in by my companions. Setting foot in the cafe, guests are immediately greeted by the delectable musk of vintage records. It’s an acquired taste, but one that immediately sets the tone, and lets the guests know to not rush, but to savor every minute of the dining and lounging experience. I wouldn’t consider myself an audiophile in the strictest sense, but the warm lively sound of the records being played inside “really hit the spot,” and added greatly to the overall experience.
Chef Cocoy welcomed us into the cafe, ushering our group towards the bar area, where we’d spend the next four hours sampling most of what they had to offer. He then proceeded to tell us a brief story of how things came to be, pushing for a responsible and sustainable supply chain for most, if not all their ingredient needs. Working closely with farmers, producers, and the locals of the northern provinces, the SGD team painstakingly collects seasonal ingredients from each source, often times going door to door to purchase a single tali of artisanal Etag (smoked pork belly), all while trying not to disrupt, but to enable the local farming and growing economy. While this may mean that ingredient availability will vary from season to season, the SGD team believes that this is the best way to give their guests the best possible product, while ensuring the sustainability of their suppliers.
One sip of their espresso is all it takes for you to find out exactly why they won the awards they did. Most notably, their heirloom coffee has won the Medaille Gourmet (Gourmet Medal) in the International Contest of Coffees Roasted in their Countries of Origin. It’s organized by the Agency for the Valorization of Agricultural Products (AVPA). With a single properly aerated sip, one can experience a cornucopia of flavors from a bold caramel flavor to a mild acidity that rounds out at the end, offering the imbiber a plethora of sensations that rapidly change in a single swig. Their SGD Black and Flat White actually pale in comparison to their espresso, admittedly this is a personal choice, but for anyone wanting to experience what people are raving about, the espresso is your best bet.
More than coffee
Our first three courses were the Pinka Fries, crispy-fried dried Señorita fish served with chili and garlic infused basi vinegar that cuts through the bacon-like richness of the fish; Prawn and Pomelo salad, fresh prawns and pomelo segments tossed in a light basi vinegar-based dressing, with bits of red onions, cilantro, red radish, mint, and chimichurri; and the mildly bitter-sweet SGD Champorado, made with heirloom un-milled Balitanaw rice, artisanal tablea, and muscovado sugar, topped with milk foam earning it the nickname “Champuccino.”
The next two dishes to land on our table were the Heirloom Rice and Insarabasab. SGD’s heirloom rice dish uses the same Balitanaw rice as the Champuccino, this time used in a savory setting. The heirloom rice is pressure cooked with generous portions of etag to infuse the rice with its smoky flavor, while tenderizing the smoked pork in the process. A brunois (tiny cubes) of seasonal mountain vegetables are added to the rice right at the end to add crunch and vibrancy to the dish, resulting in a mildly smoky rice dish with multiple textural layers that pair off well with the flavor profile of the dishes to come. Pleasantly tart and spicy, the Insarabasab is a dish made of grilled native pork belly tossed in a refreshing basi-calamansi dressing along with juicy ripe cherry tomato halves, red onions, scallions, ginger, and chilies. The blend of ingredients in the Insarabasab offers a departure from the bad schtick pork belly has of being overly greasy, with the spice and acidity cutting through the fat and the juiciness of the tomatoes giving it a clean finish.
Without so much as time for a quick smoke, the next two dishes arrived at our table. The Imbaliktad is a beef dish stir-fried in garlic, shallots, ginger, and chives, seasoned with a basi-citrus liquid that once again gives the dish a clean aftertaste (if you’re noticing a theme here, you’re not wrong). SGD’s Coffee Fried Chicken is a unique take on an old Filipino favorite—whole fried spring chicken. The crisp spring chicken is served on a bed of their carrot-based SGD Coffee sauce, a sauce so thick and rich that if Chef Cocoy were to say it was dessert, I wouldn’t doubt him. Slices of pickled ripe green mangoes are served along with the chicken to cleanse the palate, a much needed side dish to prepare us for the next course.
SGD is launching a new all-day breakfast menu soon, and we got to try two of the new menu items they’re planning on launching! Inadobo sa Kape is SGD’s take on the classic pork adobo, braising pork belly in a blend of espresso and classic adobo staples. Thick slabs of braised pork belly are served alongside their signature heirloom rice and freshly sliced ripe tomatoes drizzled in cashew pesto.
A Filipino breakfast staple, Tocino, or rather chicken tocino glazed with pineapple also makes an appearance in the all-day breakfast menu, served with heirloom rice, and a sayote tops salad.
A trio of pasta dishes is also making their way in the newly revised menu in Pasta al Funghi, Bolognaise, and Carbonara. I have to tip my hat off to the chef in his team for their dedication to quality, from using egg yolks and cheese as a sauce for their carbonara (all-purpose cream in carbonara is a lie the world has embraced) to rejecting the “spakechup” norm and opting for a herby bolognese sauce, and topping the dishes off with real Parmigiano Reggiano tableside.
Homemade desserts are sort of a specialty in SGD, and they made sure we knew about it. Just as the torrent of entrées ended, a wave of saccharine treats flooded our table.
SGD makes their ice cream in-house with flavors like SGD Coffee, made using french press brewed Sagada coffee; Tablea, with the same artisanal tablea they use in their Champuccino; Strawberry, Trinidad strawberry ice cream marbled with condensed milk; and my personal favorite, Vanilla… with a hint of orange.
A plate of classic pastries with an SGD twist also made their way to our table. The Revel Bar had a crumbly texture, with the chocolate offering a pleasing bitter-sweet contrast to the already sweet oat layer. I’m a sucker for citrus (as you might have gleaned in previous paragraphs) and the Lemon Bar did not disappoint. It’s crumbly yet firm crust held the lemony custard well and offered a nice balance between sweet, tart, and savory. The Oatmeal Orange Cookie was another citrusy treat on the plate, topped with candied orange slices. The real star of the pastry assortment, however, was the Egg Tart. A flaky puff pastry crust containing a hot, rich, and creamy egg custard that oozes into your mouth. Even novice pastry chefs will tell you how much of a chore it is to work with freshly made puff pastry in our climate, constantly chilling after rolling, so as not to melt the butter, showing how much effort the kitchen crew puts into the food.
The final dessert to grace our table was the Strawberry Shortcake. Hand mashed and macerated Trinidad strawberries doused over flaky shortbread biscuits, all over freshly hand whipped chantilly cream, and garnished with a fresh mint sprig. Each component of this dish would be great alone, but together they offer a wide range of flavors and textures in a single bite. As a baker myself, I was especially taken by the shortbread, with its firm yet flaky texture that packed a strong savory flavor, but not so overpowering as to completely dull the flavors of the strawberries and chantilly cream.
SGD Coffee Roastery offers you a premium coffee and dining experience for a reasonable price, with quality menu items ranging from P95 to P350, you’d hardly be breaking the bank for a nice cup of coffee and a filling meal. The food is simple yet wholesome, prepared with as much care and love as your grandmother’s cooking, made with ethically and sustainably sourced produce that directly helps the local communities they’re procured from. At the end of the day, I was completely stuffed, ready to be tucked into bed, and hibernate until the next summer.
SGD Coffee Roastery is located on the ground floor of Fox Square Building, 53 Connecticut Street, Greenhills, San Juan City.
Photos by Roc Verdera