Aruga Cafe by Mesclun : New Home, Same Amazing Flavors

I'll never forget having one of the best meals in Manila right before relocating to Singapore some four years ago. It was at Mesclun Cafe at Linden Suites where I fell deeply in love with Chef Katrina Kuhn-Alcantara's Ulang Thermidor and Sisig Spaghetti. In fact, I've been a fan of Chef Katrina's cooking from her Cuillere days followed by her amazing sandwiches at Chuck's Deli. Everything that comes out from her kitchen never fails to leave me in such a dreamy, happy state.

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So, when I got an invite to visit Aruga Cafe by Mesclun at the Rockwell Center, I made sure not to miss it! This time, Chef Katrina and her team leads the full operation of the hotel's in-house F&B establishment and she has prepared a varied menu for breakfast and for lunch and dinner too. Dining here should definitely be part of the to-do list of all hotel guests. It would definitely be a waste to not dine here and enjoy Chef Katrina's mouthwatering dishes.

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Our lunch began with a platter of Mushroom and Spinach Empanaditas (Php. 345). It may look like your average empanada/empanaditas but wait till you take your first bite. Inside, it's filled with chopped mushroom, garlic, spinach, cream and fragrant truffle oil. It was so good that I made a mental note to always order this when I dine at Aruga Cafe. This is definitely one way to get everyone to eat their veggies and go for seconds too.

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What came next was something very familiar. We had the Buffalo Balls (Php. 375) which was what Paul and I also had four years ago at the old Mesclun branch. Served on a mini llanera-looking plate, we all loved this deep-fried chicken meatballs that's coated in a slightly tangy-spicy buffalo sauce and served with blue cheese dip. If you love buffalo chicken but refuses to get your hands dirty, then this is the perfect choice for you.

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Moving on, we had tasting bowls of French Onion Soup (Php. 270) to warm our tummies. I got to admit that this was never one of my favorite soup as I used to get hyperacidity every single time I have French Onion Soup so I actually tried this very cautiously. Luckily, I was okay all throughout the day and night which means that Chef Katrina has successfully balanced out the acidity of this soup. I love the thick cheese covering and how the soup was not too oily to be fully enjoyed.

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My lunch companions also tried the Goat Cheese Salad (Php. 475) while I watch in envy. I really can't wait to be able to eat salads (and sushi) once again! I will definitely go back to Aruga Cafe to enjoy this simple yet refreshing salad dish of fragrant arugula, walnuts, basil vinaigrette and a generous slab of baked goat cheese on top. Yummm!

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For those dining with a group, I highly recommend that you try any of Aruga Cafe's flatbreads. That day, we had the Shrimp and Anchovies Flammekeuche (Php. 375) which are cut-up into bite-sized pieces for easier consumption. I love how they made sure to give you a piece of plump shrimp and a bit of anchovies on every slice. It has a creme fraiche base and Chef Katrina drizzled this with garlic oil to make it even more amazing. Another promising flavor is the Mushroom and Swiss (Php. 375) for those who just wants it light and simple.

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For their pasta, you just have to order the Sisig Spaghetti (Php. 295) which remains to be one of Chef Katrina's specialty. How can you resist this plate of al dente spaghetti noodles tossed in light cream sauce, pork sisig and topped with chicharon (pork crackling) bits. I normally like sharing this though as consuming one whole plate may be a bit too much for your heart (and your waistline too).

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Since Chef Katrina didn't had the Ulang Thermidor in her line-up yet, she made us try the Black Spaghettini instead. I love the richness of the squid ink sauce that perfectly coats every single strand of the spaghettini. It's, in fact, a very simple and straightforward this but one that's truly comforting too. Served with a generous amount of squid rings, you wouldn't mind ending up with black lips and teeth after enjoying this.

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If you're in for a snack or you simply just want something simpler, try the Clubhouse Sandwich (Php. 345) which is definitely good for sharing. I remember how much my mom loves Clubhouse Sandwiches and we'd always have this growing up. Using your choice of white or wheat bread, each layer is filled with Aruga Cafe's homemade chicken spread, tomato slices, cucumber, lettuce, egg and ham.

We're all starting to feel very full but believe it or not, we haven't even had the mains!

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Starting off with the Guava Pork Adobo (Php. 385). Normally, adobo is not something I'd have at a restaurant as it's one of the staple homemade dishes that almost every Filipino household would have on a regular basis. However, when your pork adobo is simmered for hours and infused with fragrant guava sauce, you just can't say no. Served with herb rice pilaf, I really loved this very much.

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We also tried the Chicken Tikka (Php. 395) which are two long skewers of chicken thigh fillet that's marinated in garam masala, lemon juice and grilled with white onions, red and green bell peppers and served with a saucer of fresh yogurt, biryani rice and papadum. I got to say this tasted very authentically Indian and I was indeed very impressed.

At this point, everyone was already at the verge of having food coma but as soon as the final main dish came out, we all knew that we can't pass up on that...well, except for this very preggy lady who sadly can't take anything that's not well done. :(

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Out came a huge platter of 300g Wagyu Steak served with the creamiest (and yummiest) mashed potato, chimichurri sauce and gravy. While watching my companions enjoy the steak, I was happily enjoying the mashed potato which was heavenly. This isn't part of the menu yet but I believe you can request for this and they would happily serve this to you.

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Finally, we've reached dessert! We had the Ube Cheesecake (Php. 340) which was very creamy and rich. It's a bit on the sweet side so do make sure to share this with a friend. The best way to enjoy this though is to have it with a cup of coffee. Aruga Cafe serves UCC coffee which, as we all know, is of superb quality.

It was such a fun and relaxing lunch as we tried a wide variety of Aruga Cafe's specialties. I'm so happy to see Chef Katrina Kuhn-Alcantara again and I can't wait to go back to Aruga Cafe for more! Wish she'll have the Ulang Thermidor back in the menu soon.

Check out Aruga Cafe by Mesclun at the Waterfront Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati City. Call them at +63-917-7103896. 

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