When In Manila, especially when blogging in Manila, you never know when you’re going to get the shock of your life. Mine came a few weeks ago, when our editor, Vince, messaged me one night on Gmail.
“Frankie, you’re going to have to go on a date.”
“A what?!” I typed back.
“A date. We’re thinking of doing romantic date restaurants as a theme this month, so you might want to ask a guy out.”
This shouldn’t have been a problem, except that I must confess I am single, and have been since birth. The closest I’ve ever gotten to a relationship is (unless you count fangirling over Ed Westwick) the “brozone”–the girl equivalent of the much-loathed “friendzone” for guys. Luckily though, the brozone does have its perks. After weeks of bewailing my inability to find a date–for work, even!–one of my “bros” from Mellow 94.7 decided to step in. As I constantly complain about my awkwardness with guys, my friends decided to “prepare” me for the (hopefully) inevitable moment I find myself alone on a “date” with a member of the opposite gender by making the heroic decision to take one for the team. And so it happened that I ended up in Katipunan on a lazy Thursday afternoon with my fellow School of Jocks SJ, “Chase,” checking out one of his favorite hang-out spots, the eclectic chocolaterie, Xocolat.
The brainchild of Pinky Ortiz, Rina Avecilla, and Valerie Lopez, Xocolat has been providing Filipino chocoholics with their sinful fix since 2006, promising “the ultimate hot chocolate,” with branches located in Eastwood, Promenade, and Katipunan. Each branch bears a unique personality–”Like one of our kids,” Miss Rina quipped in a casual interview–and it is the Katipunan branch’s indie and eclectic vibe (as well as its proximity to both Miriam College and Ateneo de Manila University) that makes it a favorite of among the “young and in love.”
Some crazy colors…
Sweet nothings and reassurances.
A little mood lighting
But it isn’t just the homey and intimate atmosphere that makes Xocolat Katipunan such an ideal Metro Manila date spot. Its biggest attraction, as the restaurant’s name suggests, is its chocolate-laced menu that goes far beyond mere desserts. From pastries to pastas to full meals, each signature Xocolat dish carries a chocolate kiss. From the full-bodied and intoxicatingly tart Taza de Xocolat brew to the sweeter “kiddie” options to their “Skinny Xocolat” set with sugar- and dairy-free choices, Xocolat’s menu promises something for everyone. And that “something for everyone” goes beyond taste: Xocolat’s Pinky Ortiz explained that “The experience of drinking chocolate is an overall thing…it’s interactive. Everyone has their own ritual, their own style.”
My “partner-in-crime,” Chase, agreed. An Atenean, he frequents Xocolat, and couldn’t help but gush a little bit over his first time trying out their classic hot chocolate. With all these rave reviews, I couldn’t wait to try out the Xocolat experience for myself. “They’re really good. You won’t be disappointed.” Chase assured me.
Xocolat‘s Chocolate Chicken Pasta: creamy pasta laced with a cacao kick.
Our first dish was a Chocolate Chicken Pasta, which was also one of Chase’s favorites. As he’d had it before, he gamely let me have the bulk of our shared plate, though even if he hadn’t, he might not have had a choice: the food was so good I would have stolen it all anyway. The creaminess of the pasta contrasted with the tart bite of the chocolate, and the cacao-laced chicken had a peppery, buttery flavor. Even the garlic bread–something I usually don’t eat when it comes with my pasta–had a theobromine kick that made it impossible to resist.
Me hogging all the pasta. Delish!
The Chocolate Chicken Pasta was followed by another of Xocolat’s signature chocolate-laced treats: the Spiced Chicken. In appearances, it looked a lot like a darker-colored Chicken Inasal, but in taste…it was definitely no ordinary roasted/barbecued affair. The chicken had a slightly bitter kick from the hint of dark chocolate in the mix, and that offset the sweetness of the roasting. Coupled with a vinegar-y sauce, the dish tread a fine balance of flavor that had me literally rolling my eyes with how good it was.
Spiced Chicken: Sweet roasted chicken with a slight peppery cacao twist.
This time, though, I had to fight Chase for it–he hadn’t had it before, and since I’d eaten up the bulk of the pasta, it was only fair I let him have more of the chicken.
Chase attacks the Xocolat chicken.
The “main courses” alone had the two of us already in a chocolate-induced high, but that was nothing compared to Xocolat’s dessert offerings. Their signature is a chocolate cake known simply as “That Chocolate Cake”–a tempting, glossy cake with a big white X-marks-the-spot.
That Chocolate Cake: Xocolat‘s signature temptation.
Being “edgier” folk, however, Chase and I sprung for the Molten Flourless Deconstructed.
Molten Flourless Deconstructed: Rich chocolate cake, coupled with sweet vanilla ice cream, intoxicatingly pure chocolate shot, and light-as-air cream.
The Molten Flourless Deconstructed is basically a “deconstructed” chocolate cake, where all the key elements are served separately: cake, vanilla ice cream, melted pure-chocolate “shot”, and cream. The cake was this rich, tart slice of chocolate topped with an almost foamy egg-white “icing.” The chocolate “shot,” by comparison, was a potent, bitter brew that tasted like pure cacao. Overall, a very rich dish, with enough theobromine to make even the most anti-romantic start believing in that first rush of love again.
French Toast: Chocolate for breakfast never tasted so amazing.
As if three amazing chocolate courses weren’t enough, we decided to sample an item from their breakfast menu. The French Toast was served in fluffy brown cubes, along with palate-cleansing pineapple tidbits and slices of herb sausage. Chocolate for breakfast may seem like an unorthodox choice, but after biting into a bit of the bread, I wanted to have it for breakfast every day!
Taza de Xocolat: A cupful brimming with pure, molten, bittersweet chocolate.
We were more or less stuffed after four meals, but definitely had to make room for Xocolat’s infamous “ultimate hot chocolate,” their Taza de Xocolat. The creamy concoction is pure, melted cacao, served with a little tea biscuit and garnished with mint. It tasted literally as if someone had melted a 100% bar of rich, dark chocolate, and turned it into a drink: definitely the ultimate hot chocolate, and the most potent, non-alcoholic beverage I’d ever had.
Not just the ultimate, but also award-winning: Xocolat Katipunan‘s trophy for their QC! Na Top Young Innovators award.
After five dangerously chocolate-y courses, I definitely felt that Xocolat had delivered on its promise of the ultimate chocolate experience. It comes as no surprise, then, that Xocolat bagged the QC Na! award for Top Young Innovators–a trophy that sits proudly on the counter, next to a myriad of tiny treats ready to be taken home. Xocolat has definitely redefined the chocolaterie, making a unique experience accessible to the mass market, while still maintaining that intimate, café air.
All in all, a definite hidden gem of a date spot, and with dishes that fall within the PHP 100-500 range, definitely not hard on the budget. Given the quality of the food, the prices are a steal–gourmet flavor for student-friendly prices, meaning that you can treat your special someone to a romantic meal (after all, chocolate is supposed to be an aphrodisiac, and almost all of Xocolat’s dishes are bursting with it) without burning a hole in your wallet.
And speaking of romance…
Chocolate connection: Friends bonding over Xocolat‘s rich temptations.
While Xocolat is certainly a perfect date-spot–what with the indie atmosphere, the aphrodisiac-laced food, and the relatively small and intimate setting of the café–sparks didn’t exactly fly on my first ever “date.” Still, Chase and I had an awesome time. The friendly vibe of the café was definitely infectious, which meant that we both had a fun afternoon chatting and laughing in between bites–a welcome surprise, given my aforementioned “awkwardness” when it comes to being alone out with boys. Chocolate, apparently, is a miracle worker.
After an afternoon spent drinking the place in, I could definitely see Xocolat’s appeal. There really is an experience for everyone: couples, barkadas, friends, and families. So When In Manila, whether you’re young and in love, young and out of love, or simply young (or young-at-heart) and looking for a cool hang-out spot with good food and a great ambiance to while away a lazy afternoon, Xocolat Katipunan is definitely a place for you. Swing by! You won’t regret it.
Also, visit Xocolat Eastwood and Xocolat Promenade branches for their “Bake Sale Days,” where pastries are marked-down at fifty percent off. It is every Wednesday for the Promenade branch, and every Friday for the Eastwood café.
Xocolat Katipunan: (Chocolate) Lovers Find Their Soulmate in The Ultimate Hot Chocolate