Sweet treats

One of the good things that happened to Ann and Jon Añasco during the pandemic was that they finally got to open their own restaurant, called Esmeralda Kitchen, in November 2021, when the economy started opening again and the stringent rules that lorded it over the lockdown began relaxing.

After initially selling breads and pastries, with a few deli items, online during the start of the pandemic, they finally got to pivot the business back to its original plan.

The restaurant, which occupies a renovated two-story, mid-century traditional house, was ready with its very traditional Filipino menu which Ann, the culinary brain behind it, made sure was done extraordinarily.

She calls it New Filipino Cuisine, which is Esmeralda’s interpretation of Filipino home-style cuisine, as inspired by fresh and quality ingredients, using updated techniques influenced by different regions of the country.

Among its specialty dishes are kare-kare, lechon belly, lechon sinigang, sisig kare kare, lechon belly, sisig, tinumok, pako salad with chicharon bulaklak, Pata Y Negra and Burnt Coconut Chicken.

But for Ann, Esmeralda’s desserts, breads, pastries and other baked goodies were not enough. And so she collaborated with a pastry chef consultant, Chef Mai, a very good friend of hers who worked as a chef instructor at Macao University of Science and Technology.

Together, they came up with really good cakes, pies and baked goodies, some through imagined flavor profiles, a few inspired by childhood memories and favorite sweet delights they grew up with.

The Guava Cheesecake, for one, is unique and the flavor is localized, as compared with the usual blueberry or strawberry cheesecake. It highlights the guava jam that Ann makes at home and has developed such a following that they felt it had to be incorporated into the bakery line.

The cheesecake itself is Chef Mai’s recipe, actually one of her dad’s favorites among the cakes that she makes.

Then there’s Sabanana Cream Pie, which is one of the heirloom recipes of Chef Mai’s mom, who used to bake it with other mommy friends from the village. It makes use of the saba variety of bananas as its main ingredient. The saba is cooked in brown sugar with cinnamon and sago and then combined with special Pinoy pastry cream for the pie filling and “wrapped” in a flaky cashew French style crust. 

Other new items on the menu that are must-tries include Dayap Torte (lemon torte with dayap substituting for the usual lemon in the curd, layered with crisp meringues infused with loads of walnuts); Mango Cream Pie (using local ingredients that give the pie more depth); the tall Ube Velvet Cake (with layers of special ube sponge cake interspersed with halaya ube cream, iced with whipped ube icing and topped with ube crumble); tsokolate de batirol (old-fashioned chocolate cake with Brazo de Mercedes filling); and Banana Toffee Muffins (not the usual banana muffins, as the bananas are swirled into the batter and topped with toffee streusel).

Joining the list of the latest menu additions are a bread, Baliwag bonete (with the very rich egg pandesal dough of Baliwag, Bulacan, being shaped into bonetes), and a savory pie, Pork Empanada Puff (Esmeralda’s version of the empanada de kaliskis, with the flaky crust filled with a generous amount of an old-fashioned pork filling).

Esmeralda Kitchen is located at 43 Mayon Street, Quezon City (about a minute away from Welcome Rotanda and is near Dapitan Arcade). It is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Freshly baked cakes, pies, breads, pastries and other baked goodies are available at the restaurant every day, but it is always best to make
re-orders or reservations. Call 0917-8317533.