Before they arrived, we did not know there was a war brewing. We did not even know that there was a cheese tart craze, but when two specialty shops opened within a span of a month, you know something is going down!
The story of Pablo
According to a Japanese travel website, Pablo started in Osaka, Japan. Its founder, Masamitsu Sakimoto, wanted to create a cheese tart that has an element of surprise, like Pablo Picasso, the famous Spanish artist, did with his paintings. For Pablo cheese tarts, it is rather a element of uniqueness rather than surprise. It allows customers to decide how well done they want their cheese tarts to be baked. It has 25 stores in Japan, and it opened its first store in the Philippines in September 2016 at Robinsons Mall in Ermita. Their plan is to have 5 stores in the Philippines.
Pablo's store in Fort Bonifacio was under construction for over a year, as we saw its tarpaulin sign way back in 2015. We were begining to wonder if they had changed their mind about the location. Then it opened in mid December this year.
The story of Lava
The first ever Lava Cheese Tarts opened in SM Aura November 8, 2016. This is a specialty cheese tart company developed in the Philippines. The owners wanted to create a cheese tart using all local ingredients and that suit the local taste. The original tart is of soft and mild variety, and this was what we tried. It is made of four local cheeses.
Below we give our views on the mini tarts sold by these two specialty stores in Fort Bonifacio.
We tried Lava's cheese tart first in mid November. It was still piping hot when we got our hands on the tart. The filling was soft and gooey, and had a strong cheese flavor. We tried it again in mid December. This time it was served cold even though we consumed the tart in the store. The filling was no longer soft and gooey, but rather just a little soft, and the flavor was just a little cheesy.
We tried Pablo's at Bonifacio High Street on December 20, 2016, the second week of its opening in Fort Bonifacio. The line was not too long. We got our mini tart after about 5 minutes of waiting. We were not asked how we would like the tart baked, so we guess they only do that for the full size cheese tart. Then we cut it open there and then to check the content.
The tart was not warm. The filling oozed out only slightly, although the texture was still soft, and a little fluffy. The filling had a very creamy flavor, like eating solid milk that has a cheesy content. It tasted OK, but a little bland.
Perhaps we like a more salty and sweeter flavor, we liked the filling of Lava's warm cheese tart more.
The verdict: we like the warm version of Lava's tart's filling much more than Pablo's. The room temperature Lava tart filling has a score of 3, while the warm filling has a score of 5. The average score of Lava's tart filling is therefore 4. Pablo's mini tart's filling has a score of 3.5. Cheese tarts should only be consumed while they are warm, else you only get half (at most) of the flavor compared to the warm version.
Both Lava's tart and Pablo's mini tart have a very crunchy shortbread crust. Lava's is a tad lighter and crunchier, maybe because it is slightly thinner. Lava's score is 5 while Pablo's mini tart scores a 4.8 in this category.
Photo above: Lava's cafe has the industrial design look for its interior.
Lava occupies a regular store space inside SM Aura Premier Mall. It has a cosy and modern ambience that makes one want to hang out there. Furthermore, people outside cannot see inside, so you are spared from prying eyes while you slowly enjoy your coffee and tart.
Photo above: Pablo's branch at Bonifacio High Street
Pablo's uses its shop space for the kitchen. It has a few tables outside the shop at the alley next to it. You have no privacy at all, and will be under pressure from other customers who want to sit down.
Lava is a clear winner in this category. It scores a 4.5 while Pablo's gets a 2.
The size of Pablo's mini tart is similar to that of Lava, but it may have a little bit more filling. But Pablo's mini tart costs P100 each, while Lava's is P80.
Overall, we like Lava more. In terms of the taste and texture of the tarts, Lava's tarts, if served hot, is a 5 while Pablo's is a 3.5.
So there you have it, our take on the two mini-cheese tarts sold in Fort Bonifacio.
Why do we keep emphasizing "mini-tarts" and not just "tarts"? Lava does not have a big tart like Pablo, their only tart is the size of Pablo's mini tart, so the term mini-tart is used for readers who have knowledge about Pablo's various cheese tart offerings.
(And why are we so careful about the wording? because there was a war of words on an article that negatively reviewed one of the tarts and it caused quite a storm in the comments section. We hope we can get your comments without having to be as controversial as that review.)