Deciphering Dara

THE word “Dara,” in Korean, means sweet—and fittingly so, its namesake café presents a selection mindful of that, a menu filled with pastries, cakes and whipped cream-topped sandwiches, to go with milk teas and frappes on top of its specialty coffees. The past few months, however, have seen Caffe Dara grow as it has introduced more savory dishes. That served in its charming little nook, adds to an overall appeal that’s as sweet as its name.

Caffe Dara was opened last November of last year, and is tucked in a quiet neighborhood along Salinas Drive in Lahug, Cebu City. Engulfed with shades of yellow and beige, and with some superhero graffiti and toys all over, the café presents a comfy and cozy ambiance ideal for any occasion, be it dining or hanging out, late night coffee dates with buddies or quick, hearty lunches with workmates. The café is owned by coffee enthusiast Alex Ong Oh.

“My love for coffee and my partner’s fondness for sweets and pastries were what pushed us to open the cafe—that’s why we called it Dara,” she said. “We’re just really passionate about food.”

The cafe takes pride in its array of coffee drinks such as frappes and blends like the Cebunicano and Lahugccino. Its specialty is its line of Dutch coffee, which is made using pure arabica beans cold-brewed in a centuries-old technique that goes for eight hours. Caffe Dara is said to be one of the handful of local establishments that practices it, coming out with several beverage variants like the Dutch Latte and Dutch-ccino.

Its hot meals are mainly Korean fusion dishes. Alex said that specialties are the rice meals like the Tuna Fighting Rice and the Military Fried Rice, which as the name implies, has toppings inspired by viands served in the South Korean Military. Then there’s the unique Coffee Samgyeopsal, a mix of pork belly slices and vegetables savored in coffee-based sauce.

As for the sweets, Alex said she and her partner personally prepare it, and diners can always expect a different set of it every week. Bestsellers are the New York Cheesecake and Brownies, and the mochi-filled sandwiches and the abung. The latter, a popular snack in South Korea, is fish-shaped waffle filled with vanilla ice cream.

Aside from being a coffee enthusiast, Alex is also into make-up and so on the side, the cafe also sells cosmetics brought in from South Korea. It houses brands like Innisfree, Nature Republic, Etude House, Hera, Tony Moly and Iope, all of which have been carefully selected and tested by Alex herself.

That kind of personal touch given to customers in Caffe Dara is essentially one of the good things about the place, and Alex and her partner are pretty hands-on in prepping the meals and beverages, attending to customers to even manning their parking outside and advising them what kind of make-up suits them best. It gives off an experience that’s engaging, enjoyable and sweet—giving justice to the name it was inspired from.

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