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Manna Cafe: Three Secrets

Updated on October 21, 2014
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Grand Old Lady is embracing her life with enthusiasm and interest in learning all things new. She loves her dogs and her family.

Assorted breads from Manna
Assorted breads from Manna | Source

Manna Cafe, located on the 2nd level of SM BF. has three secrets.

First, Manna serves the most fabulous honey-glazed ham I have ever tasted. It was served to me perfectly in thin slices with a sweet condiment. The combination left a nice, clean feel on the palate. (And I love food that makes my palate feel clean).

Rosemarie P. Rafael, proprietor of Manna Restaurant, says the ham is smoked for hours. Although it is mostly in demand during the Christmas season, it’s available all year upon order. (Call 358-5271 [look for Eds], or 808-6504 [Chef Janine]).

Second and third secret

The second secret of Manna Restaurant is its Challah bread, which also is available upon order. I wanted to experience the Jewish celebration of eating Challah bread to honor the days when, in the bible, manna fell from the sky. The cost was most reasonable at P120. A friend said the bread is tasteless and unleavened, so I plan to look for some dips to go with it. Challah bread is gluten free and Rafael’s commissary has a separate area for these breads (more kosher, perhaps).

The third secret is that Manna serves REALLY good food. I went there four times before asking for an interview, to test their service and consistency. I first went with my daughter, Kat. The water came in an attractive, upcycled, translucent blue wine bottle with tiny blue and orange glasses adding a homey feeling.

Perfect imperfection

Ambiance always sets the tone. I love barns, so the imperfection of the uneven, white brick wall was most agreeable with its incomplete array of bricks, making it cozy and interesting.

The sandwiches, served on wooden chopping boards, added a rustic touch. And though I love barns, I won’t roll in the hay, so the chandeliers were quite lovely.

I ordered an Italian soda kiwi, and Kat had green iced tea. The blend of kiwi with soda water was basic and fine. Kat’s green tea was, she said, exactly how she likes it.

blueberry spinach, camote, and mayo jam and sauce
blueberry spinach, camote, and mayo jam and sauce | Source

soup, open sandwich and kiwi soda

We also ordered two open sandwiches -- the four cheese sandwich and the cherry tomato balsamic -- both delectable. The four cheese blend was smooth and lush, with a delicate unfolding flavor of the cheese varieties, completed by the chewy ciabatta bread. However, the amazing cherry tomato balsamic open sandwich upstaged it.

On my second visit I tried the Italian soda pomegranate which, for me, was more satisfying than the kiwi soda. I’m a kiwi purist, you see. The fruit, as it is, is sheer perfection.

Next, I had a rich, thick clam chowder served in sour dough bread. With each spoonful of the creamy soup, the bread softened as the soup permeated it, ending the dish with soft, tasty bread. Nothing beats eating a bread bowl – not even munching on fine china.

Clam chowder soup in sourdough bread
Clam chowder soup in sourdough bread | Source

Bokchoy

Finally, I ordered pork stew with bokchoy and ribs. It was tender and the sauce on the bokchoy was flavorful. However, the soup was so filling that I took the pork stew home. Later that night, someone ate all the pork and bokchoy, leaving only the sauce and rice behind. But I ate it and the sauce on the rice made a fine, Spartan meal.

On my third visit I ordered a blueberry spinach grilled cheese sandwich, curious about the combination of jam, cheese and spinach. The feta cheese melted perfectly in my tongue and the blueberry added a dash of sweetness. The spinach was no Popeye experience, but who wants to be Popeye? The sandwich was served in farmer’s bread, soft inside with a crunchy crust.

The sandwich came with camote chips (a refreshing departure from French fries) complimented by a mayo with blueberry dressing dip. Finally I had the Mango cherry torte. I love cakes topped with cherries and the nuts added an interesting crunch. Who doesn’t enjoy mango and cake?

Pork stew with bokchoy
Pork stew with bokchoy | Source
Mango torte
Mango torte | Source

Meeting the owner and chef

I interviewed Mrs. Rafael and Chef Janine on my fifth visit. They served me lemongrass tea in a pretty, yellow - printed stacking teapot cup set. I stared at it, wondering how was I supposed to drink the tea. Mrs. Rafael lifted up the pot and poured the tea on the cup underneath. Oh.

“This is pretty common in the US,” she said. Well, with this stacking teapot and cup, you can sing “Tea for One” (instead of “Tea for Two”). The lemongrass tea was soothing to the throat. They also served Tropical Fruit Apple Peach which was juicy and pure.

Mrs. Rafael suggested I try small servings of different dishes. First, there was shrimp pasta. The shrimp was boiled perfectly, and the pure taste emanated cleanly. The essence of the ingredients, put together, brought out the best in the mushroom, more so with an undercurrent of sourness from the battered cream combination.

The Bolognese was a tad sweet, and made me think of my husband who would have adored it. The ravioli was tender, and flavored perfectly in its sauce. It was the best ravioli I had ever tasted.

Italian soda pomegranate
Italian soda pomegranate | Source

Product Development

However, I looked condescendingly at the Almond Chocolate Cake, thinking, “This is what I would have eaten when I was younger and into my chocolate phase.” Wrong. The Almond Chocolate Cake proved I never left that phase and I refused to let go of the cake and they couldn’t pry it from me until they promised to let me take the rest of it home.

Rafael said Manna is a display outlet for their artisanal breads, which is their specialty. These breads are commonly sold in hotels and upscale outlets. They personally supply bread to airlines and serve the bread in their three other restaurants, namely Kaffe Yen (specializing on authentic Thai food), The Coffee Republic and Asian Noodles & More.

Rafael says constant product development is the key to this business. She showed me an interesting photo of Manna toast – a block of bread topped with ice cream, banana, a cookie straw and drizzled in chocolate sauce. In San Francisco, toast has become THE comfort food, replacing cupcakes.

A little help from OFWs

Rafael says Manna serves American comfort food with an Italian touch. Its strengths are good bread, great sandwiches, terrific jams and her personal derring do to improvise on the Pinoy’s love for sweet salty flavors.

For example, they are also experimenting with ensaimada, with salted corn beef inside, and a second ensaimada version with salted chorizo inside.

Rafael has gotten terrific help in putting her restos together. She was formerly in the OFW business, and many who got jobs in the food industry remembered her. They came back, skilled and with greater sophistication, and they helped her with the menu, restaurant concept, and updated her on trends.

They also helped her with the artisanal breads and cakes. The result: Not too many cooks spoiling the broth, but true comfort food where each dish blends well with the next and the consistency of flavors compliment the differences of each selection.

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    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hanah David Cini,

      Yes, I very much appreciate the food at Manna Restaurant. Thank you for your kind words. Hope you get a chance to come and visit and taste the bread at Manna. It's very good!

    • Hannah David Cini profile image

      Hannah David Cini 2 years ago from Nottingham

      Wow, the food looks and sounds amazing. You must feel really lucky to have them in your area. A really good review.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      poetryman6969, we all have different ideas of what tastes good and what doesn't, and we all have our own preferences. So, your comment is completely valid. Thank you for saying that I make it look good:).

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Not necessarily my kind of food since I am unfamiliar with it. But you do make it look good.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Dear Mel, hahahah sorry for the torture:). We don't lock our fridge, we just hide our secret food stash in our bedrooms where no one can find it.

      Thanks for making me laugh.

      Mona

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I was reading your delicious hub this morning before breakfast and it was torture. You need to put a lock on your refrigerator so your family won't steal your soup. Great hub!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Vespawoolf, Manna is really a very good restaurant. Hope it reaches your part of town soon:)

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

      Manna sounds like my kind of restaurant! Everything you ate sounds wonderful. The pomegranate Italian soda would be my choice, too. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Lady Fiddler, didn't mean to make you hungry, so sorry:). How wonderful to hear from you. Maybe someday the hubby and I can go to your church and taste your unleavened bread. Life is good!

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 2 years ago from On planet Earth

      Hi Grandoldlady why are your torturing me this time of the day when I am hungry? Lovely hub! I wanna taste all those scrumptious palatable items above, if only i could have pulled them through the computer. BTW we serve unleavened bread for communion its sort of tasteless but i like it.

      Thanks for sharing

      Have a lovely evening

      God bless you

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Marie Gail, thank you for the link. What do you mean by GF? When I wrote about challah bread, it was my personal speculation. I had not yet tasted Mannah's challah bread as it has to be ordered in advance. When I got my bread, it was, indeed leavened. It was also twisted in form, in a nice loaf. It doesn't taste good with butter, but -- well, I'm not Jewish so I happened to be eating chili con carne, and I dipped the challah bread in it and it has terrific absorbency. By the time I got my bread this article was already done and submitted to the editor. I believe challah is supposed to be eaten by itself and at midnight I did eat pieces of it alone and it was satisfying. Although, inappropriate as it may be, I really do enjoy it dipped in chili con carne. Well, that's just me. Thank you so much for reading this article and for the visit.

    • Marie Gail profile image

      Marie Gail Stratford 2 years ago from Olathe, KS

      If Challah is made in the traditional manner, it is seldom GF and it is leavened. Here's a link with some more information: http://judaism.about.com/od/jewishculture/a/whatis... Sorry to hear that the business misinformed you.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you SuzetteNaples for your gracious words. I appreciate you're reading this even if you're not in the Philippines. It is also great to hear from you. Been missing the Hub Pages community!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 2 years ago from Taos, NM

      Well, this sounds and looks delicious. You would make a great food critic. Philippine food sounds great to me.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Olog, yes, life is interesting in the Philippines. There are so many restaurants and people always eat out. However, the poverty issue is huge here. A positive development is that there are some major steps being taken to curb corruption. The downside is, after our current president, we might get someone who will bring things back to the old system. People have to be vigilant because every inch of progress helps in a developing country like ours. Which is rambling to the max when the issue was Manna restaurant, hahahahah

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

      It all looks good. It's interesting to read about life in the Philippines.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hello Marie Gail,

      There was no honey in the Mannah bread. What the owner told me is that she makes the bread in the Jewish manner, along with accompanying rites. Mannah is located in Shoe Mart BF, Sucat, Paranque Philippines. Shoe Mart is a big mall here. There is also another Mannah restaurant in Aguirre Street, BF, Paranque but I'm not familiar with the actual address.

      Hello Ms. Dora, thank you for your kind words. This article actually came out in Cook Magazine, but I lost my copy of the issue, so just put the article out along with my personal photos. I usually go to a resto about four times before deciding if I will write about it. It's a way to test consistency.

    • Marie Gail profile image

      Marie Gail Stratford 2 years ago from Olathe, KS

      Most challah is leavened and made with wheat. Where is this magical place located that makes GF challah? Does it not have honey in it? Honey is forbidden at Passover because of its leavening qualities. I'm wondering if this challah is really challah or a KFP (kosher for Passover) type of bread instead.

      Interesting Hub. Can you share where Manna Restaurant is located?

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Beautiful article, Mona. Manna Restaurant is privileged to have you write about them. What an excellent promotion with a tone of genuineness.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Billybuc. I have missed the grace with which you write. What comes from the pen truly comes from the heart.

      Eiddwen, thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing this hub. Wonderful to hear from you again.

      Faith Reaper, thanks so much for your kind words. Wish I could send you a real mango torte right now:)

      EricDierker, so funny! Hope I land in San Diego someday to go to Manna over there.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you DDE:). Yes, I have really missed Hub Pages but have been quite busy lately. Guess HP has to be a commitment. I love reading what that gang is writing about and love interacting in this community. Thank you very much for the visit.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Another lovely review my friend. If I ever make it there, thanks to you, I'll have a place to eat at that I can trust. :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

      Thank you so much for taking me on a visit to Manna Restaurant . You described each visit wonderfully and the photos of those delicious dishes were mouth-watering; especially the mango torte mmm!!!!I vote this great hub up, across and share onto my FB page A brand new dawn. Enjoy your weekend.

      Eddy.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Thank you for sharing the three secrets of Manna Restaurant. Great review and interesting. Love your photos. They have my mouth watering now!

      Voted up +++ and away

      Blessings always

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      You sure made me want to go there and eat. All the food sounded great. We have a Manna restaurant here in the San Diego area -- but it is a Mongolian barbecue joint -- go figure.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Incredible photos! All looks so tasty and worth trying. An interesting and informative hub. It has been a while since you wrote a hub. A great effort made by you.

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