Café Zenses: The Newest Coffee Place in the South
by JC Ansis
When In Manila and somewhere in the Bicutan area, take a break from the busy life and drag your ass to the newest coffee place in town: Café Zenses. Located inside SM Bicutan, Café Zenses is a kick-your-feet-up type restaurant that can give all the popular coffee shops a run for their money.
Café Zenses is owned by Chef Johann Santos and wife Isis, the people behind the now defunct Zenses resto-bar in Makati that focused on neo-shanghai cuisine. And if you don’t already know, they’re the same couple known for using molecular gastronomy and liquid nitrogen techniques in the kitchen.
Coming from the crowded and noisy atmosphere of the mall, entering Café Zenses is a breath of fresh air. With the restaurant’s wide opening, you can tell they’re welcoming customers with open arms, inviting people to sit and lounge on their comfortable couches and seats. You can definitely sense a different kind of vibe inside the place. The area is spacious and the linear interior is simple and classy. The jazz playing in the background teases your ears and the aroma lingering in the air tickles your nose. Indeed, Café Zenses lives up to its name.
Café Zenses’ menu is diverse and has a wide variety of food and drinks. They offer rice meals, pasta, pastries and cakes. Chef Johann mentioned that since this is a place of relaxation for people, they wanted to concentrate on comfort food. The amazing thing about it is that Café Zenses serves native cuisine. The food here is so familiar; customers won’t have a hard time choosing what to order.
Chef Johann laid down before us a couple of their best-selling dishes: Spaghetti Carbonara and the Garlic Bagnet. The Spaghetti Carbonara was more than your usual white-sauce pasta. It was intimidating with its large bacon toppings and rich cream sauce.
I definitely enjoyed devouring the Garlic Bagnet. The pork was cooked just right, soft and tender, having a bit of a chewy texture to it. The sauce that came with it was a classic pinoy “sawsawan”, made from tomatoes, onions, bagoong and a little of the odd-tasting-but-delicious Pinakurat vinegar.
Both these servings are large and generous. And their prices are a notch lower than those other coffee places that also serve food. Bang for the buck I might say.
Of course, this coffee place review wouldn’t be complete without coffee. Chef Johann let us also try some of their incredible coffee drinks: Lavender Ice Blended Coffee, Peanut Butter Mocha Ice-Blended, Maple Ice Blended with Bacon and Hot Lavender Cappuccino.
The Lavender Ice-Blended Coffee and the Hot Lavender Cappuccino are a part of the “lavender line” idea Chef Johann came up with. Since we’re in the midst of lavender season, Café Zenses are offering lavender-inspired coffee drinks till the end of August. As we all know, lavender has been associated with relaxation and serenity, that it helps ease stress, fatigue and headaches.
That’s why, personally, I fell in love with the Hot Lavender Cappuccino. The sweet-smelling lavender and the rich taste of the coffee blended so well together; one sip of it and you can just feel the soothing effect kick in. The Hot Lavender Cappuccino is probably the best-tasting cappuccino I have ever had. No gas, just truth.
Being how much of a sucker I am for peanut butter, the Peanut Butter Mocha Ice-Blended also became a favorite of mine. It was so luscious and nutty and fun to drink. I mean, c’mon. Who doesn’t love peanut butter?!
Next I tried was the Maple Ice-Blended Coffee with Bacon. Yes, you read that right: BACON. This drink was extremely unique and different. But in a good way. Seriously, anything with bacon is better than anything without bacon. I’d suggest everyone to try it. For heaven’s sake, we’re talking about bacon here!
Before Chef Johann let us off the hook, he whipped out something he said he’s been experimenting on. He called it Coffee Espuma. It’s coffee you can eat. It isn’t frozen, it isn’t liquid. It’s unusual, yet addicting. The Coffee Espuma is another special product created from Chef Johann’s molecular gastronomy and liquid nitrogen methods. It contains a heavy amount of caffeine so I guess this is a must-try for all you caffeine junkies out there. Before you can even figure out what the Coffee Espuma really is, it instantly melts in your mouth and disappears like Lebron James in the 4th quarter.
Chef Johann and wife Isis are pretty much hands-on with the operations of Café Zenses; meaning they’re there all-day, everyday. And they’re quite nice, too. When they’re not busy preparing the food themselves, they like to chat up customers, asking how their food is.
I love the place because it didn’t fall for the whole “copying Starbucks” trend. Café Zenses has its own distinct mark, being very laid-back and friendly. I like how people can just chill and sit down and not care about the world when they’re inside. They’ve got very delicious food and serve meals for breakfast, lunch, merienda and dinner (you can actually spend the whole day there).
Café Zenses gives you a complete dining experience. And if you’re wondering whether or not they offer free WiFi, they do. I promised myself I’ll visit this place again soon so I can try more of their food and drinks. And I suggest you do to. So When In Manila and want to take a break from all the crazy noise in your life, Café Zenses is your awesome slice of paradise.
3rd Floor, SM City Bicutan
Dona Solidad Brgy,
Don Bosco cor. West Service Rd.
Bicutan, Paranaque City
Photos by Kenny Ansis
Café Zenses: The Newest Coffee Place in the South