The local desserts scene seems to be in throes of a pretty bad case of Francophilia. With Paul opening late last year and Eric Kayser this month, Poetry & Prose is the new local player hoping to take advantage of the madness over macarons and éclairs.
Poetry & Prose is on the ground floor of the main wing of Shangri-La mall, occupying what used to be Fish and Co’s entrance foyer. The indoor space is small, but elegant and pristine. Its decor is mostly white with touches of black and gray care of the marble tables and plush chairs. The outdoor seating capacity is easily thrice that of the restaurant’s inside. In the (unusually cool) February weather, it was nice sitting outside in the breeze, but I do wonder if it would still be as pleasant in the summer heat, with the smoke from passing cars possibly becoming an issue.
The Eggs Benedict’s hollandaise was delicious, with its lemony kick, but there was so little of it that it got lost in all the richness of the egg yolk.
The menu consists mostly of all-day breakfast items. They offer salads, crepes both savory and sweet, quiches, and French toast. I ordered their Eggs Benedict (PHP 355), which came on top of what I guessed was a blini (since they had those on their menu), and not the traditional English muffin, which I missed. Also non-traditional was the bright, fresh-tasting salsa-like salad that was served as a side, which was, unfortunately, the most successful part of the dish for me. The egg itself was cooked correctly, with the yolk still creamy and runny, but it overwhelmed everything else. The hollandaise was delicious with a lemony kick, but there was so little of it that all traces were lost in the richness of the egg yolk. Finally, the slice of ham was so thin that I had to actually peek under my egg to see if it was actually there.
I would have preferred a slightly heavier hand with the herbs and salt.
Their Croque Madame (PHP 465) had similar issues, with the thin slice of ham overwhelmed by the thick slices of bread it came with. Their Herbed Cheese Soufflé (PHP 275) was more successful, but was not without its own issues. While the Soufflé itself was light and fluffy, scented with rosemary and other herbs. I found it under-seasoned. I would have preferred a slightly heavier hand with the herbs and salt. In addition, what the soufflé did lack, the sautéed mushrooms overcompensated for to an almost disastrous degree. I think I have a high tolerance for salt, and the mushrooms were almost inedible even for me. I tried the mushrooms with the soufflé, and while that did a lot to temper the saltiness, it was not enough to convince me to finish my meal.
Luckily, there were more than enough dessert options to cleanse my palate of all that salt. The Beignets (PHP 155) were reminiscent of the local neighborhood doughnuts, but less greasy and with a more tender crumb. I wish they came with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, though, and with richer, deeper dipping sauces. Similarly lacking in depth of flavor were their macarons (PHP55 each). I ordered one each of chocolate and salted caramel, and I wouldn’t have been able to identify those flavors if I didn’t already know what they were. The caramel filling, in particular, was so bland, that it just tasted like butter to me.
My favorite was the Millefeuille, three sheets of crispy, flaky, buttery pastry reminiscent of our local otap, piped with rich cream in between.
Also buttery, but in a good way this time, was the crust for the Tarte Tatin (PHP 255). The flaky crust provided textural contrast to the three generous layers of syrupy apples. I do think that this needed a squeeze of lemon to highlight the underlying tartness in the apples, but that’s nitpicking what I think is an excellent version of a French classic. The Mont Blanc (PHP 185), with whipped cream and chestnut cream wasn’t as impressive, with its heavy crust and strange aftertaste. I much preferred the small tower of Profiteroles (PHP 195) with the cream-filled choux puffs covered in dark chocolate. My favorite of all the sinful cream-filled treats, however, was the Millefeuille (PHP 165), three sheets of crispy, flaky, buttery pastry reminiscent of our local otap, piped with rich cream in between. I loved that, in one bite, I got the velvety cream and crunchy shards of pastry all at the same time.
The few times they get the balance right, the results are worthy of best-of status.
There seems to be an imbalance somewhere in the Poetry & Prose kitchen. Certain things are doled out in excess (salt, apples), while others are distributed so stingily (ham, chocolate in macarons). That’s quite a shame, when they get the balance right, the results are worthy of best-of status. If they are able to make the necessary tweaks to balance and round out the flavors in their dishes, then Paul and Eric Kayser might have make room for this local upstart.