Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mentoré Coffee + Bar by UCC

I like my men like I like my coffee - hot, strong, and rich. - Anonymous
The guys from UCC Ueshima Coffee Co. have outdone themselves this time. With the opening of SM Aura came the launch of their newest baby: Mentoré Coffee + Bar. I checked it out with a few friends to see how they differed from the regular UCC coffee shops. With an almost entirely different menu, and more ways to enjoy your coffee, I think this is going to be the new place to be for coffee purists and people who want to develop a better appreciation of the second most exported product in the world.

Mentoré is located on the second floor, right opposite the huge F21 store that's also near Uniqlo. I think this was strategically positioned so boyfriends and husbands can catch a break and enjoy a cup of coffee while their significant other shops, or for women to get a bite to eat after a long day of shopping. Aura is a pretty big mall, after all.

I ordered an Orange Cappuccino (P180) while waiting for my friends. This seemed like a stomachache-inducing idea on the menu (it's like drinking your two breakfast beverages at the same time), but if the combination works for chocolate, then it must work for coffee, too. This was really good, especially with the cold coffee. The breakfast drink of champions!

I also checked out some of their brewing methods while I waited. Each brewing method gives a slightly different taste to the coffee as well as different levels of caffeine.

This medieval-looking contraption is the Water Drip. The most anal of all brewing methods, precisely measured cold water is allowed to drip over medium coarse ground coffee over eight hours. This produces a brew which is silky with deep coffee notes without the usual acidity. The only downside: If you enjoy taking in the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, this is going to disappoint you.

The Syphon method has a highly charismatic visual appeal in coffee making and produces a smooth medium body and flavorful cup using a medium ground coffee. This is best used when brewing highly acidic coffees.

When my friends arrived, I was ready to try some of Mentoré's cold drinks that didn't taste like coffee. Naturally, I gravitated towards the Berry Chocolate Smoothie (P180) while my friend Euge tried the Mango Passion Smoothie (P180).

We started the meal off with a spicy Thai Yam Unsen Salad (P290). I fin dit a bit odd that a Thai dish found it's way into a Japanese-fusion menu, but the salad was simple yet surprisingly good, with heat from the fresh chilies, nuttiness from the peanuts, and the soft, chewy squid.

Gerry tried the very unique Peri-espresso (P180) - a coffee soda made from UCC's coffee blend espresso, Perrier's sparkling water, and honey syrup. I had a bit of a taste, and it was like coffee and coke having a baby - it's also equally addicting.

The Yoshoku Spa Carbonara with Egg (Regular - P340; Large - P430) didn't look like much, but the Western-influenced Japanese-style spaghetti was really quite tasty. The pasta looked and tasted more like Ramen noodles (if it looks and acts like a duck, then it must be a duck!) and the bacon lent the dish its smokey taste, allowing the mushrooms to just seep everything up. The rich yolk gave everything a silky touch, and it almost felt like the noodles were melting in my mouth.

I'm more of a sandwich person by choice, and this Hot Sandwich Salmon and Cheese (P290) made me one very happy foodie! The Mozzarella literally oozed out of the fat, pressed sandwich, and each bite tasted of the delicious, fatty fish. Paired with a handful of fries, this is perfect as a late lunch-slash-merienda meal and pairs nicely with any of UCC's coffees.

If you're looking for a bit of surf and turf, Mentoré can whip up a pretty mean Fried Shrimp and Hamburg Combi (P430). I didn't think much of it when I first saw it, but like most of the Japanese fusion meals at this place, don't judge the simple-looking book by it's cover. The hamburg was nicely seasoned, with a lovely smokey gravy that just coats the inside of your mouth with a hum of spices, waiting for another piece to go down the gullet hole, or maybe a perfectly done tempura perhaps. This dish comes with some coleslaw and a potato salad, so it's really filling.

For dessert, we were urged to try the Kobe Baked Pudding (P180). It looked like your usual leche flan, but assuming so would be a terrible, terrible mistake. Popular in Japan, this luxurious egg-based dessert is super silky and very, very, light. The ice cream that it came with seemed heavier to consume that the actual pudding.

Another twist on a classic breakfast dessert is the Clair Tiramisu (P230). A hybrid of a crepe and a waffle, the clair has a nice chewy consistency - definitely something I'd keep coming back for. What you do is either spread the stuff around and wrap everything as tight as a burrito, or cut the clair into quarters and create little bite-sized cones. I prefer the latter, but if you don't mind getting messy with dessert then by all means, burrito it away.

We were quite stuffed and went back to checking all the different brewing methods that were available at Mentoré. The most popular in Japan is the Pour Over method - using the drip method, a cone-shaped paper filter is utilized to extract coffee. Water at off-the-boil is carefully spread over medium fine grind coffee with an unfailingly clear, fragrant, and seductive coffee cup.

The fastest method for me if the French Press. First used in French restaurants, where it got it's name, it uses a fine mesh filter plunger unit attached to the lid to separate ground coffee and produces a heavy-bodied water. I found myself getting all googley-eyed over the Bodum French Press - I so want one in blue for Christmas.

I'd have to say favorite method - because you get the most caffeine out of it - is the Espresso method. The coffee done with the espresso machine is extracted from 7 grams of fine grind coffee at a temperature of 95 degrees Celsius with 9 atm in 25-30 seconds. This produces an ounce of very rich, syrupy, and robust brew. Something definitely not for the faint of heart. But then, isn't the point of coffee getting that caffeine high?

Mentoré is also a bar, which means they will be serving coffee-based cocktails. Gerry tried one of their new concoctions called CoCo - a cool blend of Remy Martin VSOP cognac, Kahlua and espresso - shaken, not stirred. He said the cocktail was rich and creamy and full-flavored espresso with a smooth layer of equal parts of premium cognac and coffee liqueur to round out the flavors. It was also damn strong.

Another cool part of hanging out at Mentoré is the little putting green for you to practice your swing while you relax and enjoy your coffee. With the weather getting cooler and cooler as the Ber months count down, this is such an ideal place to hang out and just enjoy the cool breeze.

When mucking around Manila and wanting to develop a better appreciation for your favorite brew, check out Mentoré at Aura or the newly opened branch at Park Terraces, Glorietta, Ayala Center, beside Fairmont and Raffles Suites. Not only will they be giving out coffee tutorials, you can stay for happy hour and try their coffee-based cocktails, too!

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Mentoré Coffee + Bar
SM Aura Premier,
McKinley Parkway cor. 26th St.,
Bonifacio Global City Taguig
Open Daily: 10am - 10pm