Since I’m trying to avoid a case of leptospirosis, I decided that instead of going to Starbucks I would go to a less mainstream, but arguably safer, cafe. That cafe is Picked, here at Tunasan along the National Highway in Muntinlupa.

The place is easy to miss. It’s a small door leading to the second floor.

Picked is a very cozy place. It’s got lots of wood, and I like wood. The place could have looked awful with its rough concrete floor and walls, and industrial ceiling, but all the wood on the counter, tabletops and panels really lent a great ambience to the interiors.

The wooden interiors really give this place character.

I am also happy to announce that there were no mice on the floor. But there is a kitchen in the back so I can’t be sure of that place.

Nice chalkboard menu. A smaller version is laminated on the counter.

That said, we went ahead and ordered some food. Here we will be trying their famous Black Burger, which reminds me a lot of the Red Burger I had at Red Engine, only this one is black.  We also got a Pastrami Sandwich along with S’mores for dessert, and a cup of Macha Latte, just because.

This cup of Green Tea Macha is 120php.
This cup of Green Tea Macha is 120php.

The Macha Latte arrived first. When I came to pick it up, I saw a familiar candy bar sticking out like a straw from the drink. It’s my favorite Macha Kit Kat bar! A very nice, if unnecessary, addition. Tastewise it didn’t do anything for the drink, but it gets an A+ for presentation.

The drink itself, unfortunately, was a little watery and not very macha-tasting. I had recently tried Cafe de Vita’s macha smoothie mix which I got from SNR, and I had been making macha lattes from the comfort of my own kitchen for the past several months.

Unfortunately, I am the kind of person that looks down on restaurant food that is not as good as the stuff I prepare at home, and unfortunately even with just a ready-made macha smoothie mix I had already come upon a superior product to the macha latte here at Picked.

In an effort to improve the consistency and taste, I mixed the cream into the mix. I normally don’t like cream and leave it untouched in my cafe drinks, sometimes I even tell the baristas to leave the cream off of my frape or latte. Here though, the drink really needed it, and when I mixed the cream in the taste did improve, but not by much.

So I would give this latte a pass.

The only way to make these s’mores more DIY is to grill the skillet at the central tabe grill ala Korean BBQ.

The s’mores arrived next. Unfortunately, this is dessert and our lunch hadn’t arrived yet, but that never stopped me from having dessert first. I have a separate stomach for dessert so it shouldn’t affect my lunch appetite.

The s’mores, unfortunately, also fell under the “I can make it better at home” category. My niece usually prepares smores as a snack when we have some marshmallows, chocolate and graham at home.

The s’mores here are as basic as it gets: 30 marshmallows are served on a bed of chocolate on a skillet, heated and toasted a bit so the marshmallows get soft, then a pile of graham crackers are served on the side. It’s a bit DIY and you have to assemble the s’mores yourself.

I can’t say I like this presentation, because for starters the chocolate gets stuck to the basin of the skillet. When you make a s’mores, you should get two grahams, sandwich the chocolate and the marshmallow in between, then heat it, so that you don’t waste any of the ingredients.

Leaving the marshmallows and chocolate on the skillet is a bit lazy and, to be honest, inconvenient for the end eater. I made quite a mess and got some very sticky fingers trying to make my smore’s out of this presentation, so that was not appreciated at all.

On the bright side, I like the chocolate that they used. It’s not the usual milk chocolate that goes into most s’mores, its more of dark chocolate. I am not sure what exactly they used but it tasted a lot like a mix of Meiji milk chocolate and Meiji dark chocolate. It’s good chocolate. If only it weren’t stuck to the skillet.

The s’mores costs 220.

 

Now that we’re done with dessert, on to the main course.

This is a good Pastrami Sandwich. It’s reasonable for what you get at 190 php.

The Pastrami Sandwich was very good! It’s a bagel cut in half and stuffed with pastrami, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and cheese slices. For dressing they just used mayo.  It’s a very simple sandwich, but it tasted great. All of the shortcomings of the dessert and drink were washed clean with this.

The pastrami itself had a rich, smokey-savory flavor that carried the entire sandwich. The mayo was there just right to give it the right amount of saucey wetness, and the cheese rounded out the savory salty taste. It’s balanced out by the sweetness of the onions and the tomatos, and the lettuce gave a nice almost crisp texture. Really it all came together. I can really recommend this sandwich.

Superb Black Burger. I LOVED it. I even ate the apple on top!

But the real star of the meal was the Black Burger. It’s the most expensive thing on the menu at 250 bucks, but it was great!  It’s much cheaper than the Red Engine burger, but it was better.

The black bread I almost expected to taste like Oreo’s, but fortunately that was not the case. It didn’t have the weird mantao-like taste of the Red Engine bun, but instead just tasted like normal bread. That’s a good thing.

The pattie was nice, thick and juicy. It tasted faintly of some garlic and onions, but was mostly beefy goodness. It had the same great cheese, onions, tomatoes and lettuce as the pastrami sandwich, but what made this sandwich really standout was the dressing.

The dressing is a flesh-colored affair, it looks and tastes a lot like the Goma sauce used in Japanese katsu. You are probably familiar with it if you’ve eaten at a katsudon restaurant like Yabu. You can also buy it at places like Metro supermarket.  This sauce though wasn’t just goma sauce, it tasted like it had been drenched in pepper, and there was a beautiful peppery after taste with each bite. Coupled with the savory goodness of the cheese, it was exquisite.

I can heartily recommend this burger, every one who passes by this cafe should try it at least once. I will probably be having it again the next time I come by.

It’s also worth noting that the burger and the sandwich came with kamote fries. I love kamote fries because it’s different from the usual french fries. In addition, kamote is higher in fiber than potato, and a much healthier option, even if it’s deep-fried.  It comes with a mayo paprika dip that is quite spicy, so if you’re sensitive to heat take note.

 

All in all, I wasn’t expecting a cafe to serve me a lackluster drink but an excellent lunch.  The ambience of this place is great and it’s very conducive to writing. In fact, I just finished off this article here at the cafe after my lunch!

Yup, that’s me working on this article right at the cafe. Good news for us Bohemian hipster writers.

I love this place and I’ll be back in the future for whatever reason, as long as I’m in the neighborhood.

 

Another bonus is that they sell a lot of tea, coffee and syrups for creating your ultimate drink. There’s also a little corner with some books for you to read. There’s even a Paulo Coelho book in there! Yes, hipsters, this cafe even supplies toilet paper for you!

That's a Paulo Coelho book there, the hipster's choice of toilet paper.
That’s a Paulo Coelho book there, the hipster’s choice of toilet paper.

To get there from Alabang, I suggest taking the SLEX and exiting at Susana Heights, turning right until you get to Hyundai. It’s just a little after on your right.

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Posted by Erwin Anciano

Erwin has been eating food for the past 30 or so years. Yes, he actually thinks that makes him an expert on all things food-related.

Website: http://emuncher.com