One of the things I miss is enjoying coffee outside. You know in a coffee shop. With the usual array of café food. I miss the unmistakable smell of brewing coffee that hits my senses as soon as I open the door. It smells like warmth and comfort. A corner booth somewhere means settling in. Sometimes I order a slice of pretty cake or a bowl of red-sauce pasta with huge chunks of shaved cheese. There’s a cacophony of sounds everywhere — a soft bossa nova envelopes the space, people coming and going, a barista shouting a name on the cup, iced cubes shaking, and lots of incomprehensible chatter. I get a magazine and relish in this once-mundane activity of drinking coffee in a coffee shop.
Before the global pandemic held us captives, I visited one not-so-overt coffee shop late in February. Strange to think that was three months ago, and yet it feels so distant, like a vivid dream I could barely remember by mid afternoon. That particular Saturday, I wanted to escape momentarily. Papa was already with us in Manila, just a few days before he’d be diagnosed with cancer. I know it’s grim to talk about a café in light of my late father. But if you’ve lost someone, you know how all things become marred with memories, even farfetched things like this café. But I digress.
I wanted to escape into this old comfy world, a world where I can just inhale pretty and shoot pretty things. So when I entered Prominent Café, I knew I made the right call. It looked like that millennial hotspot — a wide, open (very white) space with glass walls, sparse wooden furniture, and industrial design. The place was lit.
Prominent Café is a specialty coffee shop located in Sta Mesa Heights, Quezon City. Its proprietor owns the gas station right beside it. They aim to reach the locals in the neighborhood, which means catering to their coffee needs in a careful and specific manner. Before we proceed, have you ever wondered what “specialty coffee” means? Or to be more obnoxious, “third wave coffee?” I hear these buzzwords all the time but never bothered to learn more. Well, we got time these days, don’t we?
A quick Google search says that there’s three coffee movements to date. The first wave was simply about making coffee accessible to everyone. The second wave was about making coffee a luxury product. This is where the Starbucks cup came to be. Now it’s all about specialty. The third wave puts emphasis on increased customer engagement with coffee — where it comes from, who produces it, how it’s made, including brewing methods and roast profiles, and, of course, the issue of sustainability. It’s all about elevating the coffee experience to not just an activity but a lifestyle. Specialty and third wave coffee are the essentially the same thing.
So if you think about it, every other coffee shop around the metro, that’s not Starbucks, Seattle’s, or CBTL, more or less falls into this category. And so does Prominent Café.
Just looking at their menu already gives me the impression that they care. Their menu looks extra cute in minimalist typo peppered with clean, dainty illustrations. One look at it and you know there’s one for everybody. Traditional coffee drinkers would love a classic flat white or cappuccino. More adventurous drinkers can try their chocnut flavored coffee, or their cheeky “toasty”, which is basically a hot mocha (or latté or chocolate) topped with torched marshmallows. They even offer a variety of tropical flavored cold tea.
Since it’s been over two months since I actually visited this place, I vaguely remember what we ordered. What I do remember is their truffle pasta. Jed ordered this truffle cream pasta filled with shiitake mushrooms tidbits. The smell was divine, intensely earthy and cheesy and funky in a good way. We loved how rich and creamy this dish was, full of nutty mushroom flavor. Just remembering how it tasted makes me weep. I wish I ordered this truffle pasta instead of my aglio olio. Or I wish I get to order this pasta again.
For drinks, we’re apparently boring old farts and had a cappuccino and an iced mocha. I don’t remember specific things about these drinks, but what I do remember, very well, was their milk bar.
We ordered this curious thing called a milk bar. This dessert cum drink is composed of a dainty carafé of fresh milk, a gorgeous half moon-shaped glass filled with iced coffee cubes, and a big ass cookie they aptly call “chunkies.” This milk bar is very pretty. This milk bar knows she’ll be photographed. This milk bar understands that she needs to look as sweet as she’s supposed to taste. And boy is it sweet. If you love milk, coffee, sugar, and honey, this is milk bar is your jam.
So there you have it! A nostalgia, a coffee lesson, and a late (albeit useless) review of Prominent Café, a coffee place that you won’t get to experience any time soon. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little pre-Covid yearning, right? If we ever get back to the real normal, I wish they’re still open and people can go. I’d love to go back.
In the meantime, I’ll be here wading through my pile of edited photos, wondering when we’ll get to sit down, with reckless abandon, in a coffee shop again. Good times.