Food Review: (Figaro) F as in Figaro, F as in Failure
A short food review on Figaro: The Coffee Company.
Date / Time: August 4, 2010 / PM
Location: Figaro, Glorietta 4 Mall, Makati City, Philippines
Food Buddies: Cris Bautista, Airah Luy, Karen Fontanilla (friends/churchmates)
Figaro: The Coffee Company (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)
Cake—that’s basically what my dates were thinking of and craving for during the entire two weeks before and up until last night when we sat down to eat and celebrate the beginning and the concretization of this exciting food journey. The girls were so preoccupied with the thought of dining inside a restaurant that serves desserts simply because the acronym formed using the first letter of our names (i.e. Cris, Airah, Karen and I, EK) spelled out the sweet and enticing stand-alone pastry.
We met at Glorietta 4 a few hours before the start of the last full show of the highly-acclaimed film, Inception. Since our schedules didn’t coincide (i.e. two of us were out early, one came all the way from the province and the other was released from work late), it took us a long while before we were able to complete the members of Team C.A.K.E (Yes. We intelligently named our group as such). Because of little time, we rushed in choosing the very first restaurant that will be featured in my amateurish food blog. A lot of pastry shops in the mall did exhibit mouth-watering desserts. But for a weird reason, we ended up putting too much attention on interior design—thus causing us to settle for Figaro (quite a common café to serve as a starter for my online food journal).
And true enough, Figaro did not fail us with respect to ambiance. The dim yellow lights of the restaurant brought about an over-all feeling of coziness. The dark wood furniture contrasting the light-colored walls resembles a typical living or dining room—therefore making the shop appear homey. However, the restaurant wasn’t spacious at all. Only two (or three?) tables (each, if I remember it right, partnered with a pair or a trio of chairs) were inside the crammed café. And it was mainly because of spatial reasons why we opted to dine outside the shop, along the mall’s hallway.
Because I intentionally skipped my afternoon snack, I was eyeing on Figaro’s Chef Karl Marxist Tan’s special a la carte meals. When I went to the counter to order, I requested for Tuscan Chicken, a dish that consists of pasta covered in creamy white sauce, fresh veggie salad and Italian-inspired chicken seasoned with herbs and spices and topped with a Provencal sauce. Now one thing a restaurant can do to disappoint its customer is to simply tell him/her that his/her chosen dish is unavailable. Yes. The words of Ms. *****—I forgot the name of the woman at the counter perhaps for being too crushed by the thought of bidding farewell to the taste of Tuscan Chicken—bounced continuously inside my head like a metal ball in a pinball machine. Not wanting to be engulfed with the idea of not having to savor my first choice of a la carte meal, I proceeded to ordering Chicken a la Kiev, a dish composed of pasta covered in creamy white sauce partnered with a Russian-inspired chicken stuffed with a perfectly cooked bacon and cheese combo. Now one thing a restaurant can do to truly devastate its customer is to blatantly tell him/her that his/her substitute dish is also out of stock. If I were too cruel, I would have told the store to close and would have immediately gone into a rival pastry shop. But because I really want to be firm and to create a review for each dining place I visit, I opted to stay and patiently asked the lady at the counter what dishes were currently available. She mentioned that the sandwiches and specialty pastas were still up-for-grabs.
As a follow-up question, I inquired the store’s bestseller specialty pasta. She immediately replied with Pasta a la Carlo, a dish made of spaghetti noodles covered in a sauce composed of tuna flakes, tomato chunks, onion slices, olives and peas; drizzled with olive oil; and seasoned with herbs, salt and pepper. In addition, two circular slices of garlic bread serve as sides to the pasta. Now to partner the steaming dish, I ordered a Mocha Frost; the store’s best-selling mocha-filled caffeine-based cold refreshment topped with cream. And finally to finish off the dinner; I, being a chocoholic, ordered a simple Chocolate Cake.
It did not take long before my orders arrived—perhaps to compensate for the unavailability of the a la carte meals. I first took photographs and proceeded in tasting the dishes. The coalescence between saltiness and mild sweetness, softness of the noodles and crunchiness of the sauce components, and tuna meat and mixture of veggies proved that Pasta a la Carlo probably deserves the top spot among all Figaro specialty pastas. But I, however, had problems on the dish as well. First, the dish wasn’t properly presented. The contents of the sauce were already mixed randomly causing careless stains at the sides of the bowl. Second, the two circular slices of garlic bread that served as sides were soft and thus were unable to contrast the entirety of the pasta. And third, upon finishing the contents of my dish; I noticed the excess olive oil (approximately four and a half spoons) sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Now being partly conscious with my food intake, I became suddenly uneasy at the sight of it! I could not imagine how much olive oil was poured (not drizzled as I have mentioned earlier) into the dish—I asked myself, “How much have I consumed then?!” Although olive oil may be healthy, anything beyond moderation is, in my own opinion, just plain wrong.
Pasta a la Carlo (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)
Before indulging on the dessert, I took a long sip of my mocha frost. As the liquid touched my taste buds, swirled inside my mouth and entered my throat; I thought of what I would be comparing the drink to. And up until this very moment, my mind is convinced that the refreshment resembled a highly diluted version of S********’ (one of Figaro’s competitors) renowned mocha frappe and cappuccino mixture. It was just like cold water with brown suspensions. Forgive me if I am unable to provide a kinder comparison. I cannot think of a better way to describe the drink. And to think that Figaro claims itself to be an expert in coffees—being the “Coffee Company;” one could only imagine how really disappointing it was for my part.
Mocha Frost (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)
Dessert was what I was looking forward to. With the big fuss our team made on pastries, the chocolate cake was something I was hoping to bring the café redemption. Unfortunately, I was wrong. It was actually the chocolate cake that gave a third count causing a strikeout. As my fork slowly plunged into the depths of the dessert, I noticed how the cake crumbled at the slightest touch of the utensil. There was a lack of firmness with respect to the pastry’s inner consistency. There were several avalanches that occurred as I consumed my dessert. Taste-wise, the pastry; in the words of former American Idoljudge, Simon Cowell; was forgettable. It was merely a dessert with bittersweet layers coated in sweet milk chocolate and embellished with interwoven caramels. I could not help but frown. My very first review would end up being a harsh critique. And that was something I was trying to refrain from.
Chocolate Cake (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)
As the members of the team were discussing how I was going to write about with the first entry; we sort-of felt the staff, the waiters particularly, to be moving carelessly and noisily as they rearrange tables and stack chairs. They were indirectly indicating that closing time was nearing and we have to stand up and go. My colleagues and I understood that the staff may be excited to depart from their posts after a really tiring day. But honestly, a well-said request to leave would have been more appreciated than unfriendly actions.
Note 1: (0.5 point = fork, 1 point = 1 spoon)
Note 2: The highest grade/perfect score that may be given per criterion is 1 point = 1 spoon
Layout and Ambiance (homey appearance) = 0.50 point
Service (speedy arrival of orders) = 0.10 point
Food Presentation = 0 point
Originality and Creativity in Taste (Pasta a la Carlo) = 0.25 point
Reasonableness of Price (Pasta a la Carlo) = 0.15 point
OVERALL RATING = 1 point = 1 spoon (out of five possible spoons) = 20%
Rating: One Spoon (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)
The score of the review does not generalize for all Figaro branches nor does it insult the specific Figaro branch where Team C.A.K.E. dined. Perhaps the staff last night was just too tired after a grueling day such that certain dishes were no longer made available and that the qualities of the orders were kind-of sacrificed. It was probably a matter of wrong timing—me evaluating their performance at their worst condition. Somehow, I’d like to believe the café’s bad presentation arising from that excuse. But then, a restaurant should remember that every single second they are open, they are to give their very best—for they never know when a food critic, even an amateur, will enter the restaurant’s premises and give them an assessment. The performance ends only when the lights are closed and the doors are locked. It is not, however, too late for the café to improve. And that is the most important thing. Unfortunately after last night, I already promised myself that I will not be going for another Figaro-an experience in the near future. Well, maybe sometime again after much time have elapsed.
My dining experience at Figaro was something I never expected to be part of my very first review. I thought disappointment will pervade throughout the rest of that evening. Thank goodness the presence of friends and Christopher Nolan’s amazing (amazing—yes. I felt the need to repeat!) 2010 movie turned everything around. And somehow at the back of my head; I, until now, am still hoping that the dinner I had, was nothing but a bad dream.
Click on the link below to view EK Encarnacion’s food buddies at Figaro:
Click on the link below to learn about Figaro’s menu and prices:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
EK Encarnacion loves pasta and chocolates. In fact, he can’t imagine life without these two. What else does he love? Find out by scouring his blogs: Every-Comedy-Thing (life blog), Culinary Coliseum (food blog), Travelocities (travel blog) and By God’s Grace (gratitude blog). You may also find his articles in the online community, The Filipino Diaspora.