by Reg Tolentino
Rustan’s has always stood for quality, and carrying the world’s best brands means catering to an exacting clientele. Opening the group’s restaurant concept, EAST Cafe – inside Rustan’s Glorietta department store, meant turning up the heat. Now, 13 years later, Rustan’s opens EAST Cafe’s second branch, this time in Mandaluyong’s Shangri-La Plaza Mall.
Tucked away in the Women’s section, past woven silk and hand-stitched leather, sits EAST Cafe. Its facade is glass, detailed with an Imperial Chinese motif rendered in wood. A well-lit and spacious interior beckons customers in, inviting lime green chairs putting one at ease as much as the soft music rippling through the air. Glass walls letting one see in from the outside now lets one see out – towards a store floor heaving with luxury merchandise, ripe for conversations regarding the newest trend, the latest find or the hottest looks. The whole experience feels exclusive, intimate, and relaxing.
Wait staff beam as they present the menu, and an enticing transition from the fashion to food begins.
“EAST” captures the restaurant’s culinary tour well, with Nomama and Magnum Manila’s Chef Him Uy de Baron curating a menu dominated by Chinese, Japanese and Filipino cuisine, with Korean beef Bulgogi, Malaysian-style Sate and Pad Thai noodles finding themselves alongside Agedashi Tofu, Binondo Lomi and Tuna Salpicao. All entrees are made in-store, hot & fresh.
The Super Salmon Maki, draws rave reviews from the foreign clientele. Delicate salmon wrapped around steamed white rice surrounding an avocado center and topped with roe, dabbed with ebiko. Each tender morsel has just the right level of umami and there is a danger in all eight served pieces disappearing like items in a 90%-off sale.
Crispy Beef Ribs make for a heavy entree. Each bite of fall-off-the-bone, crispy, marinated US short rib explodes with a consistent garlic flavor profile. Carnivores will appreciate the ample serving size – big enough to share, or for one very hungry husband.
Lapu-lapu with Tamarind Sauce is just one of the vegetarian options on offer. Butterfly cut Lapu-lapu is deep-fried, drizzled with tangy tamarind sauce and tofu. Slightly spicy, soft on the inside with a satisfying crunchy outside, this entree embodies the fashion mantra that what looks good sells.
Yet EAST also serves comfort food, its dessert section features Filipino comfort food made in a hallowed style – home-made, in small quantities, just right.
The Suman sa Ube is deep purple taro that’s as sweet as summer ice cream, and as chewy as fresh taffy. Its counterpart – Suman sa Lihiya – is a moist rice dessert drizzled in luxious coconut latik. Sinking ones’ teeth into this classic beckons the carefree afternoons of younger days, lazy Sundays, and Christmas. Like simple dresses or basic accessories – both Sumans, are at all times, must-haves.
Pinkerton Ice Cream by Alexandra Rocha comes in strongly aromatic vanilla, decidedly decadent chocolate, velvety smooth Dulce de Leche Seasalt and curiously interesting Chunky Mocha Madness flavors. Each scoop is a study in balance – with creaminess and sweetness present in generous amounts, though not overpoweringly so. The Sumaki is a sinful combination of Suman and Ice Cream – heated sticky rice chuckys and ube blocks enrobed with a Pinkerton scoop sprinkled with mango cubes. The promise of melting ice cream sopped up with suman is the perfect bribe for any kid to behave while shopping with mommy.
EAST’s drink menu is sufficiently stocked. Illy coffee comes in regular black, mocha and latte forms, as well as iced versions. Teas are sourced from Daude. Wine and beer is also available by request.
Operations head Karen Blythe Reyes helms both EAST branches, her 24 years in the food industry propelling Rustan’s concept into fast expansion mode. She shares the group’s drive to opening in Gateway and Cebu soon. What applies to the fashion industry often applies to the food industry and EAST Cafe seems to have hit on a formula that keeps customers coming back for more – food that looks as good as it tastes, at a price point at par with the competition, amidst an ambiance as comfortable as a tailored piece.
East Creative Asian Cuisine
2nd Floor Rustan’s Shangri-La Plaza Mall
Tel. No. 633-4636 local 212