When people go to Binondo, you’ll often hear Wai Ying, Ying Ying Tea House, or Ling Nam. But as the resident Binondo girl, there are so many underrated gems that don’t get as much spotlight as these three famous places. One of these underrated places is Cafe Mezzanine, also known as the Volunteer Fireman’s Coffee Shop, as 100% of the revenue from this place is donated to the Binondo Paco Fire Search and Rescue Brigade.
I can’t believe I never wrote a blog post for this place despite it being one of my family’s go-to restaurants for delicious, mid-priced Chinese food in Binondo.
Today, my best friend, Armen, visited for some quick catch-up. We decided to dine in Ongpin and ended up in Cafe Mezzanine. I’ve eaten here a couple of times already with friends and family because the food is great and you’re also supporting volunteer firefighters in the process.
The restaurant is on the second floor of the famous Eng Bee Tin in Binondo, and only a minute walk from Binondo Church. There are stairs going up inside the Eng Bee Tin store, just below where the sign is on the photo below.
The place wasn’t packed when we arrived around 5:30pm, but it easily became full as dinner time came nearer. Cafe Mezzanine is pretty small though, so the spacing of tables were pretty condensed.
As many of you know, service is a key factor when I rate food. Unfortunately, Cafe Mezzanine misses the mark on that aspect. Specifically for this visit, no one accommodate us when we first entered the restaurant. We idly stood by the entrance waiting for a table to clear up. We also weren’t given menus to look at when we sat down and had to ask for them from one of their servers.
Choosing food was pretty easy as there weren’t too much options to choose from.
Armen went for the Beef Wanton Noodle Soup. It’s delicious and lives up to expectations. One notable feedback is that there’s not a lot of soup in proportion to all the other ingredients. There were also some noodles that clumped together. Still edible, but definitely affects the experience.
Beef Wanton Noodle is also a classic menu item in Chinese restaurants, so it would be much weirder to get it wrong.
Overall rating is 8/10
We also decided to try the Grilled Chicken. Surprisingly, when it came to our table. It didn’t look like what you would think a Grilled Chicken is… because it’s saucy. Initially, I thought it might be grilled on the other side of it, but it wasn’t. It’s much closer to Soy Chicken or even a Chinese variety of Adobo. Nonetheless, it was pretty tasty, the chicken was juicy, and goes really well with rice. It just wasn’t what you’d expect Grilled Chicken to be.
Overall rating is 7/10
I’m a seafood lover and won’t pass up the chance to order seafood whenever I dine outside. So I decided to go for Cafe Mezzanine’s Seafood Lomi.
One important thing when serving seafood is the freshness of ingredients, and that’s definitely brownie points for this order. The Seafood Lomi consists of fish, shrimp, and squid balls. The soup is delicious, although it doesn’t taste like seafood. But having the fresh seafood ingredients complemented the soup well. The noodles were also cooked to an al dente, which I prefer when eating noodles.
Overall rating for me is 8/10
We initially planned on ordering Hakaw (shrimp dumplings) but it wasn’t available. Armen is a huge fan of Xiao Long Bao, and I’m one of those who hate it, but we decided to go for it still to replace our initial dimsum order.
Unfortunately, both of us had the same feedback that the XLB at Cafe Mezzanine was kind of a downer. The wrapper was pretty thick and chewy and there was barely any soup in each dumpling. It also had a weird after-taste that’s a little difficult to describe. For me, there was a sour undertone, while for Armen, he described it as, “may lasang kulob.” It may be weird to hear that as a description for food, but I do understand what he meant as it does taste exactly like that.
Armen initially rated Cafe Mezzanine’s XLB with 5/10, but the accompanying dipping sauce helped improve the taste and merits a good 1 whole point.
Overall rating for Armen is 6/10
Overall, Cafe Mezzanine is a great bang for buck option when dining in Binondo. It’s accessible and tastes pretty good for its price. Their plating and service though can definitely be improved a lot more, but I definitely consider their food value for money if you don’t mind not having a perfect dining experience due to plating and service. It’s still a must-try and definitely one of the more underrated places in Binondo!
Overall summary and ratings:
Price range: P200+ per dish
Budget: P300-P400 per head
Would we try again? Definitely, this is our nth visit!
650 Ongpin St, Binondo, Manila, 1006
Phone: (02) 241 9999
Open 8am to 9pm daily
A pity that it didn’t live up to your expectations. I last visited the place for drinks (this was in 2015), with a view to trying out the food pagbalik. Unfortunately, mukhang sa Mr. Ube na lang muna…
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