New bakery specializes in NY-style bagels
MANILA – A small bakery in Fort Bonifacio aims to give Filipinos a bite of the Big Apple by offering a selection of New York-style bagels and flavored cream cheese.
Located in Tuscany Residences in McKinley Hill, LES Bagels is probably the only bakery in Manila today that specializes in the bagel and cream cheese combo, which has been closely identified with New York.
LES stands for Lower East Side, a trendy neighborhood in lower Manhattan.
“I wanted to capture classic flavors from New York and bring them here,” said chef Cuit Kaufman, one of the bakery’s owners. He and his partners – Patrick Santos and Albert Besa – are also behind two other New York-inspired restaurants in Manila, Nolita and Borough.
Unlike most bakeries and coffee shops in the metro which only offer plain bagels, LES Bagels also offers variants such as Sesame Seed, Pumpernickel, Black Russian, Salt, Onion, 100% Whole Wheat and Garlic.
For those with a sweet tooth, there are bagels flavored with cinnamon raisin, and even blueberry.
The line of flavored cream cheese is even more extensive, with New York favorites such as Lox (fillet of brined salmon), Scallion, Garlic and Chive, Vegetable, Herb, Jalapeno Cheddar, Bacon Cheddar, Sundried Tomato and Basil or Olive, Blueberry, Strawberry and Apple Cinnamon.
“The only cream cheese there that I feel I’ve never seen before is probably the Caramelized Onion and Raisin, which I actually really like,” said Kaufman, a New York City native. “It’s kind of sweet, but there is actually no added sugar.”
Those who are not a fan of cream cheese may opt for other sandwich combinations – they can add butter, butter and jam, egg and cheese, and egg and cheese with sausage, ham or bacon.
There is also the option of ordering an open-faced bagel sandwich with tuna salad, vegetables and cheese (Tuna Melt), or with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese (Pizza Bagel).
“Originally, we had a small menu, like half the size, but I felt like people kept wanting recommendations. So it’s like, if you want recommendations for a sandwich, then you can try these,” Kaufman said.
What Pinoys like
With its small space, LES Bagels works better as a grab-and-go joint – you order from the counter, a staff member assembles the sandwich and wraps it in no-nonsense white paper, and you can enjoy your sandwich as you rush off to work or school.
Kaufman observed that their Bacon and Cheddar cream cheese is quite popular among Filipinos, as well as Lox, Jalapeno Cheddar, Herb and Blueberry.
“Filipinos love bacon,” he said. “And the thing with bacon and cheddar is it looks good just from the name of it, and then it actually tastes good with that smoky, fatty flavor.”
And unlike New Yorkers, Filipinos are huge fans of cheese and mayonnaise in their sandwich, Kaufman said.
“Here [in the Philippines], people love, love, love cheese. And they love mayonnaise, which I love, too. But in New York, people would be like, ‘whoa, too much mayonnaise.’ Or ‘no mayonnaise.’ But here, it’s like heavy on the mayo, cheese it up. So here, all of my sandwiches have mayonnaise. So if you don’t want it, you have to say it,” he said.
Aside from bagels, LES Bagels also offers sub sandwiches such as The Wall Street (tuna salad, pickled onion, lettuce and tomato on rye bread), The Bronx (ham, mozzarella cheese, pickled jalapenos, shredded lettuce, sliced banana on a hoagie pressed on a griddle), and The Waldorf (Waldorf chicken salad, brie, lettuce and mayonnaise on a croissant).
There is also an array of American and Jewish pastries such as the Rugelach, which resembles a croissant.
“I definitely wanted to have a good amount of Jewish pastries and high-quality brownies that are New York-style,” Kaufman said, noting the Filipinos’ sweet tooth.
Asked if he is planning to jump on the cronut bandwagon, he said: “I wont… It’s good, I just don’t think it’s worth all the hysteria.”
“I say keep buying them if you like them. I’m not a hater, but I’m not going to jump on that bandwagon,” he added. “I’d rather have a croissant, like an almond croissant.”
Great for sharing
At P40 each, the bagels are a steal, especially the pumpernickel and other savory variants.
The price goes up by as much as seven times, however, when it is ordered with cream cheese. A bagel sandwich with lox cream cheese, for instance, is priced at a hefty P280.
A similar sandwich called the LES Addiction which has scallion cream cheese, lox, tomato, red onion and capers, on the other hand, costs P400.
But for bagel lovers, this may be a small price to pay as they have yet to find a similar concept in Manila. All the items on the menu are also big enough to be shared by two persons.
Taste-wise, the bagel offerings hit the spot with their rich but not overwhelming flavors. It’s hard to go wrong with LES Bagels’ cream cheese selection, but the dessert offerings may be a little too sweet for some.
Tuscany Residences, Upper McKinley Road
McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio
Open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Sunday to Tuesday, and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday