Truth be told, my mom and I love food. We love to eat out just as much as we love to cook. So, last Friday, even though it was a few days early, we decided to celebrate Mother’s Day in advance by eating dinner at a restaurant we haven’t visited before.
We choose to eat at UCC Cafe Terraces at West Gate Alabang. A household name in Japan, UCC stands for Ueshima Coffee Company. In Japan, it’s much more than a coffee shop, but an all-around coffee company. The coffee shop side is just one of facets of the business. Its local incarnation however, resembles more of a pricey bistro than a coffee shop. It’s more than just another Starbucks branch, as we discovered to our delight.
Upon entering, one is immediately greeted by a display case showing plastic replicas of the menu, very reminiscent of Japanese restaurants. My confident stride into the cafe proved to be a faux pas though, as I didn’t know it wasn’t a self-service cafe. Thankfully, a member of the crew was quick to assist us by leading us to an unoccupied booth. Note to self: be more observant next time. 😛 That was when I realized that my notion that UCC was like a Japanese version of Starbucks was a misconception.
Only as we were waiting for our order was I able to look around the place. UCC Cafe Terraces has such a lovely ambiance. Soft lighting, high ceilings, unobtrusive music, a mezzanine, cushy seats, silent but attentive servers and lovely design details everywhere. They were even quick to serve us with glasses of lemon water as soon as they handed us our menus.
First to arrive was our coffee. Since it was my first time to try UCC Coffee, I went with what sounded good. And how can you go wrong with Coffee Kahlua? A coffee with a dash of liquer (or so I believe), it was a bit bold, softened only by the dollop of whipped cream. It tasted fantastic, even though I didn’t add anything to it. My mom, on the other hand, went for the Sumiyaki Coffee, which our server identified as the strongest brew they had. She even compared it to Kapeng Barako in strength. But how could it be scary when they served it in a cute vacuum coffee brewer? It was such a pity I wasn’t able to snap a photo– I was snapping pics of my own coffee so I wasn’t able to ask her to leave the flask on the table. I didn’t even know what it was exactly, but with Wikipedia on my side, I believe it to be a vacuum coffee brewer.
But I digress. The sumiyaki, despite the disclaimer about its strength, was a very delightful brew. My mom took it with added cream and sugar, but despite the additions, it didn’t drown the full-bodied coffee flavor. Plus, there wasn’t even a hint of bitterness.
Next to arrive was the seafood salad. Nestled on a bed of crisp mesclun was an assortment of delicious looking nibbles. There was ebi furai (breaded fried shrimp), breaded scallops, imitation crabsticks, cucumber, corn, slices of firm tomato, and a smidgin of ebiko (shrimp roe). Drizzled on top of the lettuce was (I’m quessing here) QP mayo and on the side was a boat of vinaigrette. After biting into it, it was easy to understand why our server identified it, along with the Kani Salad, as their best-selling salad. The various lettuces were crisp and fresh, the ebi furai had good quality shrimp, the scallops were yummy, and the dressing was a mix of sour and a hint of sweetness. It was flavorful without being cloying to the tastebuds. It was an excellent accompaniment to the salad fixings because it never drowned out the food’s natural flavors.
To round out the meal, we ordered a serving of Chicken and Mushroom Risotto. After taking a bite, my mom pronounced it delicious but too much. True enough, we only finished half of the plate. The rice in itself was heavy, but the cream-base was so rich and flavorful, a few spoonfuls were enough to satisfy our appetites. The Risotto was chockful of chicken, skin included which explains the rich, chicken flavor. The shiitake mushrooms held their own flavor and was a delightful counterpoint to the creamy base. A generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese added a hint of saltiness that went perfectly well with the creaminess. It was good enough to warrant me asking for the leftovers to be packed. Sure enough, I nuked it in the microwave the next day and it was still good, albeit a tad drier.
Despite the seemingly light meal, we left UCC happy and stuffed. On hindsight, next time, we’re going to ask them to serve the coffee last because that would’ve been the perfect end to the meal. And next time, we want to check out their dessert too. Unfortunately, I think next time isn’t going to be anytime soon, because while it was a truly delightful meal, for me, 600PHP per head is a bit pricey for a light meal. Still, wait for me UCC. I will definitely be back. How can I resist its Good Coffee Smile?