Single Origin is your workday-coffee haven
Carlo G. Lorenzana introduces me to a friend and regular. "We (Carlo and I) see each other once a year," he chuckles. Our last encounter was for a story I was doing on Peruvian cuisine and he had just opened his Japanese-Peruvian sushi bar with business partner Dodjie Violago (Ba Noi's) called Nikkei within months of unveiling their cafe collaboration—Single Origin—in Bonifacio Global City. Roughly a year after, I am once again sitting across the restaurateur at the freshly opened branch of Single Origin in Rockwell, looking chirpy as usual yet slightly frayed around the edges. "I'm so stressed out," he admits. "My wife is already telling me to stop opening restaurants." Nine Shi Lin outlets, Argentine steakhouse La Cabrera, and a couple of cafes later, it looks like Carlo is not about to stop anytime soon.
A salt-rimmed latte
Trend in a cup
Single Origin, as the name implies, used to center around Carlo's premium Lamill Coffee which he imports and distributes. Cocktails, craft beers, and wines are available as well, from the time they open at 8 a.m. until they close around midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Their beverage menu continues to be a force to be reckoned with. However, what is most obvious is their food line-up which has noticeably doubled in size.
Is this a deliberate shift from third-wave coffee shop to Manhattan-esque gastropub? "We're just giving the regulars what they want," Carlo admits. "And they want more options." A testament not only to a loyal client base that has considered the bulb-lit, urban cavern their second home, but also of executive chef Jay Saycon's comfort food favorites that keep their dining room at full-capacity all day. Besides, Carlo doesn't want to be restricted by labels. "What matters to us is that, whether it's our coffee, or cocktails, or food, everything has to be good."
Shrimp Po Boy
Bacon in Mud
Crab Fat Pasta
Bacon is eternally good, and it is all over their food. Directly pandering to that demand is their Bacon Basket, which oddly contains no woven vessel of any form, but it does deliver on the promise of thin slices of crispy pork belly with a side of ranch dressing for slathering. The Bacon in Mud—literally bacon strips with melted chocolate for dipping—is almost too cutesy, although the kitchen regains its footing with both the Breakfast Pizza and White Truffle Pasta, relying on the tried-and-tested bacon and eggs combo.
Chef Jay proves that he is not using the popular ingredient as a crutch—the seafood offerings are just as indulgent as the baconized dishes. The Crab Fat Pasta, for instance, tricks the eye and poses as a harmless marinara draping plump shrimp and tender squid. However, you get a whiff of the briny crab fat and it makes you wonder how it was overtook by truffle oil as the indulgent pasta sauce enhancer of choice. For those who do not get confused by sweet sauces, the Shrimp Po Boy is a great sandwich option: the crispy crustaceans are battered and fried, smothered with a thick honey mustard sauce reminiscent of Chinese-American staple lemon chicken. Delightful, if you're a fan of lemon chicken. If not, then you have the Wagyu Burger to rely on—it's simple and straightforward, assisted only by an impressive showing of perfect truffle fries.
Corned Beef Plate
White Truffle Pasta
Classic Blueberry Pancakes
Single Origin will always have a soft spot for brunch, which is the type of food they were associated with early on. The waffles were instant favorites, and soon after, the French toast (using brioche made in-house) and the massive pancakes grew to be just as beloved. The latter, in particular, is a dusk-till-dawn draw with its own cult following. "It's only available until 6 p.m. because the batter can only stay airy up to a certain time," Chef Jay relays. "People have asked for it late at night, but we just can't serve it round the clock." That blows, we had to admit. "The quality will suffer," Carlo adds. "So, our customers just adjust. There's a family that loves it so much, they come in at 5 p.m. at least once a week and they'll order it to share."
Short Ribs Benedict
Carlo swears by the homemade corned beef and he should—it's moist, flaky, and on the right side of salty. A couple of slabs are showcased in their Classic Corned Beef with Two Eggs, a good choice for those who are intimidated by the monstrous Short Ribs Benedict. It is exactly that—a braised beef rib alongside hollandaise-topped poached eggs on muffins, with an assault of garlic Parmesan hash on the side.
Chef Jay shares that they have had no rest since they opened the Rockwell branch a couple of months ago. "Some of our opening staff already quit," he candidly shares. "They just can't handle the volume." I look at Carlo, eyes glazed over from the fatigue and stresses of the day, the weight of what seems like a sack of coffee beans squarely on his shoulders. Still, I have a feeling I'll see him again next year.