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One can’t help but wonder — would the French Revolution have occurred differently had Marie Antoinette said “let them eat crêpe!” instead? After all, the idea that crêpes are a strictly sweet confection, much like cakes, that are fittingly served at the end of one’s meal is a misconception, for the thin pancake loved by the French can be stuffed with all manners of meats, cheeses and greens, and may be enjoyed at any time of the day across all seasons.
Breaking this misconception has been a constant challenge for crêpemakers across the world, for one has to experience the classic French dish in all its forms to discern its potential. Thankfully, it doesn’t entail an expensive meal at the chic restaurants of fair Paris, for the crêpe has finally found its home in urban Manila. Serenely tucked in a corner of Burgos Circle in Taguig’s Bonifacio Global City (BGC) is a new branch of La Crêperie, the famed corner of French cooking in the metro.
A new home
Opening one of its latest branches in the Burgos Circle is, if you ask La Crêperie partner Marc Licaros, a stroke of genius. He gladly sat with the asianTraveler team that afternoon, remarking on how the new location is a perfect blend of suburban serenity and city-identified bustle with its high-rise residential neighbors and the area’s proximity to the emerging business district. And according to him, this sort of ambience is what the chain of restaurants is associated with.
The La Crêperie legacy started serving its famous dishes in September 2009, with lawyer Christine Laman and accountant Cheese Ledesma-Ong opening their first few branches in San Juan, Ortigas and Quezon City after having been inspired by their regular trips to France. In the years that followed, the two ladies gradually expanded their menu of signature cuisine until finally, six years and six branches later, they teamed up with chef-restaurateur Marc and opened with him their seventh branch, the La Crêperie des Boquinistes, in August of 2015, to cater to the hungry public of BGC.
Considering the owners’ frequent exploits in the French capital, each of La Crêperie’s branches has been graced with a unique character typical of Parisian salons and patisseries, and the BGC branch is no exception. Chandeliers, pastoral artwork and an upright piano adorn the new restaurant’s two-floor space, but what Marc is proud to showcase instead is his bibliotheque-inspired corner of magazines and books, some of which have been donated by their owners for other readers to enjoy. In the future, he and his partners intend for the restaurant to be a haven for booklovers, where they can likewise enjoy the perfect gustatory complement.
Today, La Crêperie des Boquinistes attracts a variety of patrons, which includes residents, students, businessmen and office workers from nearby buildings, and some of them have been faithfully coming back for their regular dose of pan-cooked French cuisine.
The sweet side of things
In the Philippines, crêpes are traditionally regarded as a light breakfast dish or a sweet finish to a savory meal, that is why Chef Marc thought of reintroducing us to the classics, as well as a few reinventions, as we began our La Crêperie experience with a selection of gourmet sweet crêpes.
For starters, we had Salidou, a house favorite featuring salted butter caramel folded into the soft pancake and topped with whipped cream. This well-balanced dish of sugar and salt combined won the hearts of many caramel-lovers when they voted it as one of the metro’s top desserts using salted butter caramel or SBC. And rightly so, because every warm bite was a mellow but decadent homage to the humble French crêpe.
Crêpes are also commonly filled with fruits and jams, and so we tried a couple of recommendations from the open kitchen: The first one was Mango Hazelnut au Chocolat, a chocolate crêpe filled with fresh mango cubes and spoonfuls of hazelnut spread, topped with sliced almonds and whipped cream and drizzled with the signature salted butter caramel. Its sweetness, quite extraordinarily, stems not from the chocolate or the caramel, but from the fresh fruits enveloped within the folds of the crêpe. And the same could be said about the second one, the Strawberry Mango Jubilee, which was a twist on the time-honored dessert of the almost-same name. This time, the classic crêpe was blended with mangoes and strawberries stewed in a tangy orange rum sauce and topped with a big scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream.
When we asked Chef Marc if he had any favorites from the menu, he admitted to being a fan of the simple combination of butter, sugar, and lemon, which to him and many other guests is a party of flavors suitable for any hour. However, he also revealed that he makes his own crêpe at times, using a variety of ingredients available from the kitchen. This luxury, called faites la vous-même (make your own), has now been made available to each and every guest of La Crêperie.
The crêpe we’re not used to
Oddly enough, after feasting on a variety of sugary goodness, it was time to shift flavors and try the savory side of the French dish. For something akin to a breakfast selection, we sliced into the Complète Crêpe, which is ham, egg, Emmental and Gruyère cheeses, fresh mixed mushroom, and Dijon mustard cocooned in a wheat flour pancake. Obviously on the salty side, this crêpe was a revelation in the matching of ingredients, as the creamy egg fuses the flavors and textures of the other components together, especially the mushroom and the cheeses.
To make things complete, we were also acquainted with the galette, a thin and crispy cousin of the crêpe which is cooked to a darker shade as it is made of buckwheat flour. The one we had, the Fontina Galette, is a fun combination of Fontina cheese, prosciutto, fresh mixed mushrooms and arugula, for we tore through the dish like children for a chewy and creamy sample of the familiar-yet-strange opus. Before long, we found ourselves salivating for something sweet after the hefty deal with the savory crêpes and galettes, but we would soon find out that the bout wasn’t over just yet.
Away with the French
Aside from the sampling of crêpes and galettes, we also tried other dishes from the restaurant menu which, although christened with French names, are essentially non-French. Such items include pastas, soups, salads and sandwiches, but the ones that really caught our attention are La Crêperie’s Hearty Meals.
Chef Marc takes pride in his Le Hamburger, which he insisted on being added to the menu, so as to capture the hard-to-please taste buds of the Filipinos. The tall hamburger features a thick and juicy beef patty, crunchy lettuce leaves, slices of plump tomatoes and crispy onions. When having this, don’t fail to spread equal spoonfuls of ketchup and Dijon mustard, for that exquisitely amplified meaty taste.
Finally, we had a new item called Sole Meunière, a fish dish based on an authentic French recipe: a fillet of sole, sauteed in rich butter with lemon juice, accented with caper berries and snips of parsley, and served with rice and greens. The soft and delicate fish, cooked to perfection, is elevated to new flavors after absorbing the exquisite butter and lemon sauce.
As we were ending our meal, I took a last glimpse at the menu and glanced at something it quipped. There, we learned what La Crêperie maintains as its motto: “La vie est faite de petite bonheurs” or “Life is made of the little, happy moments.” I then surmised that as the restaurant believes in the innate soul of simple and good food inspired by the world’s kitchens, we, its diners, must also relish in the satisfaction that whether our meals begin with something sweet, continue with something salty, or end with something heavy, every hour of the day is made special by the memories we create. Plus, they are made more special with new cuisines and in new places such as this one in Burgos Circle.
Eating crêpes at La Crêperie des Boquinistes is made much more special with its selection of drinks featuring both local and international ingredients. For one, La Crêperie’s chocolate drinks, served in demitasse cups, go well with most gourmet crêpes, and are fun to drink especially when served with decadent chocolate coins.
Angelina’s is La Crêperie’s pièce de resistance of imported Parisian chocolate with dark chocolate couvertures and a side of whipped cream, while San Gines is the restaurant’s Spanish-style, extra thick Bittersweet drink. For something remotely local, try the Paris-Manila, a concoction of French chocolate mixed with native tablea.
Meanwhile, for its coffee offerings, La Crêperie des Boquinistes partnered with Yardstick Coffee, a popular Third Wave coffee shop that meticulously manufactures its coffee products with obsessive care. This partnership also secures support for local coffee sellers, marking a new development in the coffee industry of the Philippines. Coffee drinks include all the classics, like espresso, cappuccino, macchiato and latte.