Paul Maison de Qualite: A Feast for the Senses

The boom of the food industry in Manila spans not just the addition of more ramen houses than we’ll ever need, but the influx of a bigger variety of European cuisines as well. I never thought I would see the day when I am craving for German sausages and there will be choices aplenty right here in Manila. Nowadays, you can practically just type the name of the food you want, specify the location nearest you on a Google search, and let directories such as Zomato do the work for you. Eating out has now become very convenient, thanks to dedicated restaurant websites and the abundant choices.

Paul is one of the new players in this European invasion—a boulangerie and restaurant serving up French food in SM Aura Premier. Among all the more popular European cuisines, French is perhaps the least explored by Filipinos. Spanish after all has great influences on our own type of cooking, whereas Italian is the most embraced. As for French … approach a random person and ask him whether he has eaten in any French restaurant. Oh, now you get the point.

      Other restaurants in SM Aura Premier:


And why is this so? I’d like to think that it’s because of the complexities of the French language. How the Japanese are to their food is how the French are to their words. There’s nothing more intimidating for a middle-class diner than to enter a restaurant adorned with luxurious chandeliers, populated by customers virtually talking in a whisper, and then to find out that the items from the menu are unpronounceable. “Honey, which letters are silent?” she murmurs. “Everything, hon,” he whispers back.

And that’s why when my best friend Joan and I assailed SM Aura to try Paul, we entered the place in a noise barrage fashion and maintained the same level of uproar all throughout dinner. Fortunately, Paul is nowhere near snooty—the place has a sophisticated Parisian vibe but it is very casual too. There are chandeliers yes, and French music to elevate the experience, but you won’t feel like you have to sit quietly and put your hands on your lap as you wait for your orders to arrive.
Casual but elegant ... like me! LOL!
Paul is originally a bakery that’s popular all over France and was established in 1889. When I saw this from their menu, I called the server and asked it was true. Hahaha! Being in the baking industry for like 125 years, Paul guarantees to serve impeccable bread—maybe the best you’ll ever have in Manila—but being the abnormal twerps that we are, we never ordered any breads or pastries.

Rows and rows of breads and pastries. It seemed never-ending!
Fresh ingredients are flown in from Paris everyday.
We did start with a French Onion Soup, which came with two slices of bread (I would guess from a baguette). The presentation disappointed me, but taste-wise it was good. And the bread? Very crunchy on the edges, herby, buttery. It was good, but it didn’t have that amazing starter feeling that Mesclun’s complimentary mini-baguette gave me.

French Onion Soup, P95
I started with a glass of lemon iced tea, P90
The food which came after by all means made up for that not-too-spectacular beginning. Paul’s Tartine Boeuf, which is essentially an open-faced sandwich, is laden with a rich beef, mushroom, and cheese spread and comes with a side salad of greens and vinaigrette. With the thick topping you almost wouldn’t see the bread, but once you sink your teeth into the tartine you’d marvel at the chewiness of the bread.
My bestfriend Joan enjoying a bite of the Tartine Boeuf
Tartine Boeuf, P280
The Cuisse de Poulet Rotie is a “roast chicken leg with herbs, served with salad, sautéed potatoes and shallots”—accoding to Paul’s menu. What the server brought instead was a staggering quarter composed of leg and thigh! I like herby dishes and this instantly became one of my favorites. It was incredibly moist and tender, perfectly seasoned and cooked. Very juicy. And it felt very healthy too!

Cuisse de Poulet Rotie, P310. We ordered this because the salmon wasn't available, which turned out to be a good thing!
I couldn’t resist any steak that cost below a thousand pesos, so when I learned that Paul serves a beef striploin, I ordered the steak! Paul’s Piece de Boeuf is one hell of a meat slab. We had it medium-rare (succulent!) and came about perfect!

Piece de Boeuf, P720
The steak comes with what tasted like a red wine sauce, a side salad, and sautéed potatoes. It wasn’t until all our food arrived when I noticed that there was no rice in sight! Normally that would’ve made me panic, but after two hunks of meat and a bread appetizer I was so sure I could survive the night without my beloved grains.

We waited until our table was cleared before we ordered dessert, only to find out that the Napoleons were sold out! The server informed us that their products usually run out by lunch time! I wasn’t in the mood for the citron tart (the only one left, seriously), so I made a resolve to visit Paul early in the morning next time and buy some breads and pastries for takeaway.

With that inability to try what Paul is well-known for, obviously I climbed one level higher in the ranking for Stupidest Diners, so I thought of compiling some tips for you to save you the disgrace, confusion, or disappointment. These are applicable not only to Paul, but to any French restaurant you visit (or any restaurant, for that matter).

1. Eat bread. The French are famous—and crazy—for their bread, so you would be a moron for not trying to learn what the fuss is about.

Huge macarons being sold at P250 each! (P660/box of 12)
These pastries haunted me in my sleep.
2. Go to Paul early. Their products are sold out by noon. Yes, I know I have mentioned it above already but this needs reiteration for emphasis.

Arrive early to avoid these empty bread baskets.
3. Don’t be intimidated by the fancy names and spellings. There will always be an English translation below the dish’s name (unless you’re in Paris) and you don’t have to tell the French name to the servers. Don’t be pretentious if you can’t speak French, fool.

4. Omit as many letters as possible. And by this I mean not speaking at all! Hahaha! Point to the picture of the dish if you wish. LOL! This also saves you the shame of snorting too much or making barfing sounds. Ok, I’m half-joking at this one.

5. Skip the juices and other sweetened drinks. While Paul’s iced teas are actually good (especially the mint one), sweet drinks will make you full faster. I am a staunch advocate of water-only policy when dining out, and you know what? That money is better spent on good coffee while having dessert.

This mint iced tea (P90) is incredibly refreshing, but I would've preferred coffee anytime.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask the servers. They are very friendly and willing to answer all your questions, even help you with what to order if you’re that indecisive and clueless (like I sometimes am).

7. You can actually speak loudly in an expensive restaurant. Ignore those snooty people glaring at you—for all you know, they’ve been there for an hour and all they had was tea.

In fairness, my no-baked-goods visit turned out to be pretty cool as I got to discover the restaurant side of Paul!

Two things bothered me though, and the first one is that the tables are too close to each other. You could practically hear your neighbor’s whole life story, and accordingly that means they could hear my conversation with Joan as well (we like to talk about disgusting things while eating). The second one is that almost everything from the menu came with the same salad. They could’ve paired the steak with some other vegetables, but no they were too lazy so they just assembled threw the same greens into everything. There were so much leaves I thought we were in a forest.

An Abundance of (John) Greens. LOL!
Overall, Paul is an excellent restaurant—one I would be willing to revisit and explore more of. I can’t wait to go back and partake on their croques and tartlets, and order my sought-after salmon and Napoleons.

The best dinner ever with Joan!

Paul Maison de Qualite
1st Level, SM Aura Premier, C5 Road Corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
Telephone: (02) 808-5324
Budget: PhP100-300 (snacks + coffee); PhP500-700 (lunch/dinner + dessert)
Menu: Click here

Where is your go-to place for exquisite bread and French food?

pepe samson

About Pepe Samson

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