MANILA, Philippines – Just like every other international chain opening its first branch in the country, Japan’s Café Kitsuné was met with long lines of curious customers itching to get in on the hype on its opening day at the ground floor of The Podium.
The Japanese-Parisian cult favorite opened its first Metro Manila store on July 21, keeping its iconic modernist reinterpretation of the classic Parisian cafe and wine bar look, while also incorporating zen, minimalist, wooden interiors and a few local elements.
The café’s storefront is elegant and pretty, and its ambiance is cozy and warm, but it is a bit cramped in space, with a handful of tables that mostly fit couples and groups of four at most. There is a bar area though, perfect for solo workers and diners, and the overall design is very aesthetically-pleasing.
Heads up: the lines waiting to be seated are still a bit long, especially since the hype is still fresh. When I arrived at 3 pm on a Thursday afternoon, there were around six people waiting in line.
The branch also houses the café’s iconic merchandise, for anyone interested to take a piece of the sophisticated brand home – there are shelves of Café Kitsuné t-shirts, notebooks, glasses, mugs, and more.
What to expect: Dishes, prices
Café Kitsuné’s food menu is not very extensive, just like a quaint café; it’s limited to a few quick bites, three breakfast choices, and just three main entrées (a mix of Japanese and French staples), which are enough for a quick merienda catch-up with a friend or a light dinner date.
Just note that it’s not exactly an affordable spot – prices range from P250-P600, so be prepared with a splurge-worthy budget and expect to spend close to P1,000 each if you’re getting a meal, drink, and pastry in one sitting.
The Breakfast Menu includes Granola (P320): Greek yoghurt, homemade granola, and mixed fruits; Egg Sando (P250): a sandwich of egg salad and shoyu tamago; and Soba Noodles (P380), which I tried.
It was a fusion hybrid of Japan’s dry soba noodles, mixed with cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and a poached egg, French-style. The soy-sauce-based noodles were tasty but a bit too dry and salty for my liking. The poached egg almost helped to combat the saltiness, but unfortunately, it was a bit overcooked, as the yolk wasn’t as runny as I expected it to be.
For the Quick Bites Menu, Café Kitsuné offers Pork Katsu Sando (P380) with milk loaf and sando; Salmon Rillette (P420) with smoked salmon, chives, and toasted sourdough; Tuna Tartare (P450); and French Onion Soup (P360), with the last two being my top favorites of the day.
As a huge fan of sashimi, tartare, and ceviches, I knew I’d like the best-selling, Philippines-exclusive Tuna Tartare right away – substantial, soft chunks of fresh tuna are packed together on top of sweet, juicy cubes of fresh ripe mango. The plate is garnished with dollops of wasabi mayo (also a favorite of mine), with a ginger-soy-radish dressing served on the side.
I poured the dressing on top, mixed everything together, and enjoyed a refreshingly flavorful bite of raw tuna, mango, and savory-tangy flavors from the sauce that all work together. The wasabi mayo adds a slight kick of spice and creaminess to the dish. But for its not-so-wallet-friendly price, I wish there was more of it on the plate (also because it was that good).
The French Onion Soup was also a simple, comforting, and satisfying appetizer – it came with a a lot of soft onion slivers (which I like), chunks of soup-soaked bread inside, and a generously cheesy, gooey topping of grilled gruyere cheese. Plus points for that cheese pull!
For the Dishes Menu, there’s Croque Monsieur (P460) – farmhouse bread, tuna, gruyere, and emmental cheese; Chicken Confit (P520) served with jus and mashed potatoes; and Seared Salmon (P650) with crispy skin-on salmon, soybean gravy, tomato butter sauce, and potatoes.
A classic French dish, the Chicken Confit may be too simple in concept for others for its price – it’s basically a slow-cooked chicken with thin, crispy skin and juicy meat – but it is executed as it should be. The piece of chicken served is indeed crispy on the outside, and juicy and moist on the inside.
As a mashed potatoes and gravy fan, I wasn’t disappointed. My only wish was that there were more of the silky mashed potatoes, and that the dish came with a side of crisp veggies for some texture and a contrast to the salt levels of the gravy and chicken combined.
The Seared Salmon dish was the most expensive of the menu – the slab of salmon used was hefty, with well-cooked crispy skin. The fish itself wasn’t dry, but it wasn’t the most moist either.
The chunky soybean gravy served beneath could get a bit too salty, and the green herb puree on the side had a taste of cilantro, so in the end, I wasn’t so sure what flavors they were going for – the dish felt a bit disjointed. The potato bites were nothing I’ve ever tried though – crispy on the outside but airy and soft on the inside.
For the prices and the long-line hype, some may be looking for bigger serving sizes. If you’re ready to spend on the experience, go ahead; if you’re playing it safe, just choose one or two quick bites.
One thing to note is the good, hospitable service here – the staff is attentive and helpful when it comes to menu choices, and the serving time in between dishes is very reasonable.
Of course, a café visit isn’t complete without an Iced Spanish Latte (P220) – it did taste like the usual sweetened iced coffee, just less sweet and a bit more diluted. The brand sources its roasted coffee beans from Brazil and Guatemala.
I also tried the signature Banana Caramel Latte (P340), which tasted like a smooth, sweet latte with a nice hint of banana (although do mentally prepare yourself to spend P300 for a cup of coffee). They also have a Coconut Caramel option.
What I enjoyed a lot was the Green Apple and Mint Fizz (P240), a Café Kitsuné carbonated best-seller that’s fruity, refreshing, light, and zingy. There’s also Matcha & Yuzu and Strawberry & Peach flavors.
Other iced drinks available are iced chocolate, moccacino, matcha, chai latte, dirty chai, americano, and latte, ranging from P180 to P240. They also have iced tea, cascarra fizz, and lemonade for P180-P190.
Other hot drinks include tea, hot ginger, yuzu and honey, chai latte, dirty chai latte, matcha latte, white matcha, hot chocolate, mocaccino, and chocolate and matcha, ranging from P160 to P220.
As for the pastries, I tried the Lemon & Miso Caramel Meringue Tart (P215), as a sucker for citrusy desserts and anything caramel. It was satisfying – the thick lemon custard was pleasantly tart, the miso-caramel was just the right amount of sweet, and the torched meringue was light; however, I wish the actual pastry was just a bit crumblier, as it was a bit tough to cut through with a fork.
I also tried the Chocolate & Raspberry Mousse Cake (P395), a decadent treat for fans of moist chocolate cake hugged by a smooth, chocolatey mousse all around. Although the price is a bit steep for its compact size, the taste is on point – the rich chocolate is even slightly contrasted by the raspberry puree in the middle.
Other pastries on the menu include croissants, fox shortbread, brownies, canneles, pain au chocolat, paris-brest, hojicha puffs, yuzu macaron cake, and matcha eclair, ranging from P95-P320.
There’s also strawberry shortcake (P425) and cookies (P195) in pistachio and white chocolate and chocolate and caramel flavors.
The sophisticated cafe’s maiden branch was founded in Tokyo’s Aoyama neighborhood in 2013, and has since expanded to Paris, Seoul, New York, Shanghai, Jakarta, and Bangkok. The brand had confirmed that it was opening its first Philippine branch in early July.
Café Kitsuné was first launched as the coffee retailer of the French-Japanese fashion brand and music label Kitsuné, founded by Gildas Loaëc and Masaya Kuroki. The restaurant’s essence reflects that of the fashion brand it originated from – modern, urban, with a unique savoir-faire. – Rappler.com
Café Kitsuné is located at the Ground Floor of the Podium, ADB Avenue, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City. It’s open from Mondays to Fridays, from 10 am-9 pm, and from 10 am to 10 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.