Throughout my travels, it has always been a pleasure meeting other people who are passionate about their craft. I find their passion infectious and inspiring-- whether their passion is in the arts, music, books, and in good food. Sharing the same passion, I find these conversations with such people as the most meaningful and intellectual in life. Try spending an afternoon at Tutto Domani in Makati and invite over the owner, Anthony, for some small talk and you'll see what I mean by this. His knowledge and experience in life supersedes his youthful look; much to anyone's surprise. I find his cafe as one of my favorite spots in Makati, my hidden gem; a sanctuary in the hustle and bustle that is Makati.
During my stay in Cebu, I have long been in search for a cafe that exudes the same character and homey atmosphere as Tutto Domani; yet to no avail. Just when I was about to give up and succumb to my ever trusty Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf spot, an officemate (Hello Camille!) suggested a cafe that surprised me beyond my expectations-- Bintana.
While on my hunt for coffee spots in Cebu, I already came across a number of articles pertaining to Bintana; yet I never gave the cafe a visit for fear that it would be beyond my usual route. While it is a cafe that's difficult to locate (even with a car), I must say that it is definitely worth every visit. Its seclusion and quaintness are two very distinct reasons as to why I find this new cafe as my own hideaway, whenever I want to enjoy a good cup of coffee or get some writing done in the company of my own self.
On my first visit, I was in dire need of a cup of coffee but was disappointed that the barista was unavailable. So instead, I ordered a glass of Iced Tea. A few minutes later and the owner, a friendly and chirpy young woman by the name of Sarah, came by and asked if I still wanted to get coffee. Fearing I wouldn't wake up early for work the next day, I declined but promised to be back during the week. True enough, I returned a couple more times; the first with some friends in tow. What followed next was a series of cravings, especially for their Civet Coffee; a complete experience of its own.
One thing I enjoy most about Bintana is that it exudes this homey atmosphere mixed with a classroom setup. The tables sporadically situated throughout the cafe, each with a varying number of seats available for its occupants. Another corner leading to the kitchen was a bookshelf filled with a collection books of different genres, readily available for sale.
I noticed that most establishments in Cebu were previous homes converted into cafes, thus explaining its homey and comfortable ambiance. Despite this commonality, Bintana's environment was more of a nonchalant nature perfected by its soothing choice of background music; a fine selection of old jazz favorites-- Frank Sinatra, Melody Gardot, Ella Fitzgerald, and the like. I feel like this is a welcomed and educational change to the usually pretentious establishments that play Sitti's songs over and over again, as if she were the only jazz singer around. I have nothing against Sitti, I grew up listening to her songs and could even memorize some of her songs; but the endless number of cafes I've been to with tracks from her Cafe Bossa album in the background is enough to last me a lifetime. Definitely, being introduced to the creme de la creme is a crash course for me and I don't mind gaining new wisdom from this.
Apart from the environment, one thing I enjoy most about Bintana is that they offer a wide selection of food on their menu. They actually serve rice meals at an affordable price that it's possible to eat here every single day. Their food is composed of a wide selection of Filipino favorites, including the bestselling dishes such as Mechado, Bintana Burger, and Burger Steak.
Accompanying my order of coffee, I would normally eat their Grilled Cheese Sandwich, which was a real delight for me since I have missed eating the dish. Perfectly grilled, the amount of cheese was enough not to create an umay effect on your taste buds, yet it was light and delicious. Their side order of Giant Fries proved to be exactly how they were-- gigantic slices of potatoes fried to a crispy and colorful hue, enough to satisfy your hunger.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich (P45)
Giant Fries (P60)
Having our dinner there, my friends and I decided to try out their rice meals before calling it a night. The first order was the Paksiw na Liempo, a dish served with fried dried fish and a bowl of Humba style pork with a side of rice.
Paksiw na Liempo (P120)
Realizing that it's been a while since I had sinigang, I decided to go with the Sinigang na Bangus; which was actually a new addition to their menu. Fearing it wouldn't exude the sour taste that I wanted from sinigang, I was utterly surprised when it proved me wrong. I like my sinigang sour and with a bit of spicy kick-- which was exactly what Bintana was able to capture. Served with bangus belly, much to my enjoyment, I was a happy kid. The taste of the sinigang brought back the years I shared home cooked meals with my Dad, reminding me of how he would ask me if the soup was sour enough. Bintana's sinigang was for real, exactly how it should be!
Sinigang na Bangus (P100)
For dessert, go for one of their cheesecakes. On my first visit, I got to try the Reese's Cheesecake but later on found out that the topping on the cheesecake served to me got mixed up with their Nutella Cheesecake. Either way, it was delicious. The base was a combination of an Oreo cookie crushed layer topped with peanut butter before the generous amount of cheesecake toppled over it. Cooled in the freezer, this was how I preferred my cheesecake rather than baked.
Iced Tea (P30), Cheesecake (P120)
Meanwhile, my friend got the Banana Que with Ice Cream-- a traditional Filipino dessert topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.
Banana Que with Ice Cream (P70
Their Vanilla Milkshake was also a generous serving, one that my friend could not finish on his own.
Vanilla Milkshake (P100) good for sharing
The coffee is another story-- Sarah personally prepares each cup so you can expect perfection in every sip you take. She also has another staff trained to take over in instances when she's not around. Her knowledge and careful practice for the craft of coffee making is infectious and engaging. Before her, I usually drink my coffee with lots of milk and sugar. She taught me how to drink it properly: drink a glass of water first, inhale the aroma of the coffee and identify what it exudes (floral or earthy), and just before taking a sip, get some air inside your mouth so you can really let the coffee fill your palate. Ah!
Civet Coffee V60 (P180)
They offer three different varieties of coffee: Local (Sagada, Kalinga, and Benguet), Single Origin (Ethiopian), and Civet. Apart from these three varieties, you also have to choose how the coffee is prepared-- Phin, the Vietnamese style of preparing coffee served like a cup of espresso; Press, the more popular way of preparing coffee; and the V60, a special way of preparing drip coffee that required great care and patience for both the person preparing and the one who ordered it. I finally understood why Sarah was so hands on with the establishment's coffee preparation.
They regularly offer Coffee Appreciation as well as Coffee Home Brewing classes in the cafe so if you're the type who wants to have a more profound knowledge on your coffee, make sure you check out their upcoming class schedules.
If only I could stay longer in Cebu, Bintana would be the cafe I'd frequent. Mixed with good food and engaging conversations with friends over ukulele music, there's no other way I'd spend a lazy afternoon than this.
Bintana is located at 181-K Elizabeth Pond Street, Camputhaw, Cebu City. It is in a small eskinita behind The Redemptorist Church. They are open from Monday to Saturday at 11:00am - 9:00pm. For inquiries, call 032 254 0563.