By Chef Gene Gonzalez
I got around having dinner with then assigned instructor in our school in Davao City, Chef Toto Erfe, who was teaching concurrently with my wine lectures for the graduating students. This was good reason enough to have a teammate who would equally succumb to an evening of sin by doing a sampling of the desserts offered by Dairy (the talked about dessert and coffee shop) on the corner of Mabini and Jacinto streets. Small wonder that this is the new place opened by Davao’s new star kid, dubbed as this city’s culinary Mozart, Chef Patrick Co who seems to have captured the taste preferences of the locals and at the same time has enamored the palates of the city’s visitors with his bistro called The Fat Cow.
I like this guy’s style as he is completely hands-on and present in his two establishments that are just one door away. At the time we visited Dairy, he was tinkering with some Thai milk tea and was unhappy at his first glass saying that the tea was not steeped enough and he needed some answers on the temperature and time of steeping. Even with this obsessive-compulsive mood, he obliged us with three new dishes that we had requested from his restaurant before we indulged in a sugar rush since I did not have time to go a third time to this dessert place. Our light dinner started with a steak tartare that was served in its properly chilled temperature with a large baton of homemade brioche toast. (People in these parts will eat raw fish but a tartare requires more than just a regular amount of bravado. Patrick is confident enough that he has the clientele that would go for this dish.)
The tartare was rich and though the brioche crouton and the bread were also rich. The raw beef dish was complemented by this bread rather than have a stark contrast with a more neutral slice of toast. Next came our main courses of a Kurobota pork katsu with some sweet potato mash topped with a slaw that had a myriad of textures with the sweet potato complementing the tender moist pork cutlet with its crisp exterior and the slaw adding to the creaminess of the meat. An equally straightforward glazed chicken chop done in the crisp Korean-style was served on a bed of truffle risotto with the crisp sweet chicken given a creamy and meatier dimension with the risotto.
After this “light” meal, we were ready to hurdle the desserts. I had brought out a late Harvest Louis Felipe Edwards Viognier-Sauvignon Blanc and a darker, richer Gonzalez Byass Nectar, a luscious sherry reminiscent of dried fruit such as figs, dates, and prunes for the chocolate desserts.
We started with the crème brulee tarts that were torched to order and seemed to remind me of the Portuguese egg tarts but had that crisp film of caramelized sugar on top that was a great addition to texture. The parmesan cheesecake was never left to any compromises as it was never short on the sharp parmesan character ergo no economizing on expensive parmesan. I found their bestseller ube cake with cream cheese and parmesan frosting just as tasty and never devoid of the umami factor though I would have preferred a stronger accent on the ube or purple yam. Many of the regulars delve into what they have named flourless chocolate cake but are actually a novel creation and crossover of chocolate cheesecake that is one of the items I came back here for. The other two were the burnt sugar cheesecake that showed off the toasty flavors of the sugar rather than a stereotyped salted and buttery caramel. Of course, we could not leave without a sampling of the signature chocolate cake. My recommendation was to nuke it in the microwave for no more than eight seconds, which gave it the fudgy, gooey character that lit my childhood memories. With the sugar rush and all, we could not indulge in Dairy’s coffee creations but had at least a cup of coffee each expressed from Italian beans.
Being stuffed with a weeklong quota of dessert, I did manage to take home a few pieces of Chef Patrick’s macaroons which were sampled the next day unmindful of the sugar high the night before.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow my Instagra/@chefgenegonzalez