MANILA, Philippines – Who doesn’t love chocolate? It’s hard not to, especially when local and artisanal bean-to-bar chocolatiers like Auro Chocolate exist!
The homegrown and internationally awarded tree-to-bar brand founded in 2015 takes pride in supporting farming communities in Davao City by ethically sourcing all of its cacao beans from there. By sustainably and closely working with local cacao farmers, Auro is able to create the best artisanal dark, white, and milk chocolates in different retail forms – bars, spreads, coins, ice cream, you name it!
Auro gets its name from “Au,” the chemical symbol of gold in the periodic table, and “oro,” the Filipino and Spanish word for gold. Basically, Auro treats the humble Filipino cacao bean like gold – refining it as it is while also elevating it with bold, tropical flavors that highlight the natural ingredients our country has to offer. After all, the brand is all about #PinoyPride!
Bean to branch!
The pandemic didn’t stop Auro from going for gold. The brand opened its first “chocolate cafe” – a physical branch in IKEA, Pasay City – in December 2021. The new grab-and-go concept offered “auroholics” limited sweet and savory treats made with Auro chocolate, as well as local coffee, chocolate beverages, and dark chocolate soft-serve ice cream in a signature lengua de gato cone.
More than a year later, Auro expanded. In late January, the team opened its flagship restaurant in Bonifacio Global City – a warm and inviting dine-in space with an al fresco area, adorned with tropical elements and local colorful decor. It houses a pasalubong corner, freshly-baked pastries on display, and a very varied menu of desserts, beverages, cocktails, rice bowls, appetizers, all-day brunch meals, and breads that the IKEA branch does not offer.
“We wanted to create a space that embodies all aspects of Filipino influence, from the interiors down to the food. Filipino fiesta culture is incorporated into each element,” Auro Chocolate Cafe co-founder Mia Ocampo told Rappler. “And of course, we wanted to showcase the variety of use of chocolate by also incorporating it into our savory dishes,” she added.
Yes, everything on Auro Cafe’s menu has chocolate and cacao in it!
“We want people to have an urban sanctuary where they can relax and appreciate every detail that has a local influence to it. It’s a space where they can proudly feel the Filipino culture,” Mia said.
Loco for cocoa
On Auro’s menu, it reads: “We invite you taste the tropics. Inspired by our love for Filipino culture and travel, we’ve created a menu that playfully incorporates cacao and chocolate in every dish.” Yup, you’ll see how dark chocolate, white chocolate, milk chocolate, and cacao nibs can be used.
The menu is a mix of Filipino dishes and other cuisines, at a price range that’s not exactly “affordable” (well, it is in BGC). If you want to splurge on a weekend brunch with a friend, enjoy an intimate TGIF date night, spend Sunday lunch with the family, or have a merienda/coffee stopover after a jog or bike ride – pay Auro Chocolate Cafe a visit!
Onto the grub! For the pastries, a favorite was the tasty Glazed Ham & Cheese Croissant (P220) – a good ‘ol buttery, flaky croissant with béchamel, salty Christmas ham, and punchy cheddar cheese inside, topped with shredded Emmental. Try the Pistachio Danish (P200) for a sweet option – the flaky, buttery croissant dough is generously topped with a sweet white chocolate pistachio cream and whole pistachios for crunch.
Auro is also known for its soft Sourdough Pan De Tsokolate (chocolate sourdough pandesal). There’s the Ube Halaya White Chocolate (P95) with a thin filling of homemade ube halaya, and the savory Tinapang Bangus with Salted Egg Aioli (P95) with a creamy-tangy fish filling that’s like a slightly smoky tuna spread.
For the starters, Auro served us the Chicharron Manok (P320) – deep-fried, crunchy chicken skin chicharonnes served with a thick avocado herb dip, topped with cacao nibs. Texture-wise, it’s just like your average fried chicken skin. Taste-wise, I wish it were more seasoned, but dipping it into the guacamole-like dip added a nice freshness and creaminess to the experience.
They also served us the Muhammara & Moutabal Dips (P495), the Middle Eastern dips of roasted red pepper with walnuts and the smoky eggplant dip with pomegranate, served with good ciabatta. The Muhammara dip reminded me of a very sweet pimiento dip, and the Moutabal was subdued and decent (as a talong apologist, I was looking for a stronger smoked talong punch). I did enjoy the very creamy texture of both.
For brunch, we had the very filling, best-selling Fried Chicken & Ube Waffle (P520), with two pieces of golden-fried chicken served with liege-style ube waffles and toasted latik (coconut) and cacao tablea syrup. The proudly purple waffle was so thick that it was a bit tough and dry to cut through, but it had a mellow taste of ube that was complemented by the latik syrup. The fried chicken was the star, though – the very crispy, well-seasoned skin had a balanced hint of sweetness, thanks to the cocoa ingeniously used in the batter. The meat inside? Juicy and moist.
The Crab Cake Benedict (P620) was lovely to look at – who can resist that seductive yolk spill of a perfectly-poached egg, atop crab cake, hollandaise sauce, and sourdough pandesal? In my experience, the bread was also a tad tough to cut through, and the crab cake was not as crispy as I expected it to be (maybe because it was very thick). For its steep price, I think I would go for the classic Eggs Benny instead – they do make a great poached egg!
Here’s a recommended pampatanggal ng umay sweet treat – the Bibingka Dutch Pancake (P420)! The light, fluffy pancake is served in an iron skillet, topped with queso de bola, coconut, salted duck egg, grated parmesan, and served with latik syrup. It melts in your mouth – the pancake is moist and soft – and the addictive latik syrup seamlessly marries with the saltiness of the other bibingka works.
Another unexpected favorite was the Ginataang Kalabasa Rice Bowl (P390) – probably one of the best versions of the Filipino veggie dish I’ve tried. The comforting squash-based sauce is creamy, thick, and subtly flavored with curry spices, made decadent by the gata (coconut milk) and turned slightly sweet by the white chocolate mixed in. It’s served with squash and crisp French beans, and with your choice of white or red garlic rice.
Desserts, drinks, atbp
For the sweet tooth chocoholics in need of a fix, Auro’s Ooey Gooey Chocolatey Caramely Tub Cake (P350) is a guilty pleasure cap-off to a meal and/or the best treat to bring home and keep stored in your fridge whenever a cacao craving hits. It’s rich and indulgent in all the right and restrained ways – in one spoonful you get a soft caramel layer, chocolate ganache, chocolate mousse, and chocolate shavings. Yes, you deserve it.
Auro’s Dark Chocolate Soft-Serve (P150) is perfect on a hot summer’s day – creamy, soft, smooth, and delicately sweet ice cream made with Auro chocolate. It’s a homemade chocolate ice cream that’s easy to like by both kids and adults. However, as a dark chocolate stan, I may have been craving for more of that deep, bittersweet taste of a strong dark chocolate.
As for the drinks, don’t miss out on Auro’s specialty Hot Tsokolate (P180) – a warm, comforting dark chocolate-based drink that feels like a hug in a cup. It’s just like native tablea – rich, chocolatey, milky, and not too sweet. It’s also available iced for P210. There are other options made with white chocolate.
Auro’s Spanish Latte (P200) is a decent take on the trendy coffee beverage – it’s pretty pricey, but it is served with Auro’s white chocolate that makes the drink sweeter than your average Spanish latte, if that’s what you prefer. For an iced version of that, there’s the Cold Brew with Auro White Chocolate Cream (P220), a coffee refreshment that’s more milky and sweet than caffeinated.
The Auro Cacao Iced Tea (P140) was interesting – mountain tea, peppermint, and cinnamon are mixed with cacao husk and nibs, which I immediately tasted upon first sip. It’s a strong cacao taste that I wasn’t used to having with my iced tea, but after the addition of sugar syrup, it wasn’t too bad (chocolate-flavored iced tea isn’t really something I’d look for).
There’s waaaay more on Auro Chocolate Cafe’s menu – the vegan fudge brownie also deserves a shout-out – that is better to try out in person, next time you’re in the area. With a handful of memorable savory dishes and reliably good sweet treats, the cafe proves that Auro Chocolate still knows how to appeal to its Filipino and international fanbase market by keeping things authentic, yet relevant and interesting. We’re excited to see what more the proudly heritage brand has to offer! – Rappler.com
Auro Chocolate Cafe is located at the Ground Floor, One Maridien Tower (U/C), 27th Street, Taguig City. It is open daily from 7 am to 10 pm.
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