Williamsburg’s Manila Social Club, recently written up in the New York Times, is making noise in the food world by pushing the boundaries of Filipino cuisine as we know it. Take, for instance, head chef and founder Björn DelaCruz’s torta talong, an eggplant omelet “spiked with eggplant ash,” writer Ligaya Mishan writes, or another noodle dish called pancit prances, studded with foie gras and duck leg confit bits.
DelaCruz’s family-run restaurant, which he operates with the help of his brother and sister, has turned into what he calls “a literal extension of our household.” The restaurant features elevated homestyle dishes that mesh elements of his Filipino background with a metropolitan, NYC sensibility. One of the dishes that epitomizes this idea is Manila Social Club’s Golden Cristal Ube Donut, filled with ube mousse, decorated with champagne frosting, and leafed in 24-karat gold.
Since DelaCruz posted a picture of it on IG a week ago, the hundred dollar doughnut has surged in popularity, prompting belt-notching New Yorkers to allegedly order them by the dozen. To find out more about the hype surrounding it, we spoke to DelaCruz about what inspired him to make such a luxe dessert, why Cristal frosting pairs well with purple yam, and the future of Filipino food.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
The Golden Cristal Ube Donut The Manila Social Club presents their infamous gold-ube donut, adorned with icing made with Cristal champagne and filled with an ube mousse, champagne jelly, and covered with 24k Gold. $100 per donut. For more information or to inquire about placing an order, please go to www.ManilaSocialClub.com. #manilasocialclub#williamsburg#newyears#ube#filipinofood#pinoyfood#donuts#goldleaf#champagne#doughnuts#nyc#f52grams#newforkcity#eatmunchies#eeeeeats#cristal#bubbly#bestrestaurants#cheflife#feastagram#buzzfeedfood#filipinofoodmovement#huffposttaste#forkyeah#feedfeed#tastingtable#eater#zagat#dessert#richdessert
What prompted you to make a golden doughnut in the first place?
We have this doughnut program where we make doughnuts every Friday, and you can only order them online on Thursday. The reason why we do this is because we’re not a doughnut shop. The Golden Cristal Ube Donut came along because there is a brewery in Bushwick called Braven Brewery, and we know the owners Marshall and Erik. We both started our businesses around the same time. We had a doughnut event where I unveiled a doughnut with icing made with Braven White IPA, dusted with gold. That was the beginning of the golden doughnut [idea].
The reason that gold leaf and Cristal were added was because I love all different champagnes. I wanted to add something [to the menu] for the new year to celebrate how long we have been going. I didn’t know people would go and order a dozen [of these] at a time! But then again, it is New York, and there are people willing to put down a grand for a dozen doughnuts.
Would you say this is the first doughnut of its kind?
The only one that comes to mind is this doughnut by Krispy Kreme. It was covered with white chocolate and flowers. It didn’t even look like a doughnut. This, you look at it and think, “THAT is a golden doughnut.” In real life, it’s really captivating. When people see it, I usually get a few questions: How much is that? Can you eat it? Does it even taste good?
The reason I chose Cristal over another type of champagne is because Cristal has really great honey notes which goes great with ube (purple yam). For me, it’s shiny and it’s golden, but it comes together to create a really great doughnut, as crazy as that sounds. There was a time when I was eating this doughnut while drinking Cristal, and I was like, “Oh, this is a great combo!”
It seems like this doughnut combines both your Filipino background and your experience as a New Yorker. What’s the reaction been like?
Yeah, you know, it’s very difficult to talk about this doughnut without thinking, “Oh, they just did it because it’s gold and expensive.” I cook with [those ingredients] because I think they taste good. If I wanted it to be just an expensive thing, I would use the Ace of Spades. For what I wanted to do, Cristal was the perfect match. To me, I think this tastes really amazing. It’s not just about the shock value, it’s a combination of it all.
I tell my staff, look, if we want to make something really expensive, all we have to do is buy a bunch of Kobe beef, wrap it in foie gras, deep fry it, and cover it in gold. But there are reasons why we do everything. For example, if we’re using caviar, it’s because I want to add a salty aspect to the dish.
This is a great thing about Filipino food. It’s never had these ingredients before. I make this rice porridge called Arroz Caldo—it’s like comfort food. There has never been an Arroz Caldo dish with truffles. But truffles go so well with chicken and so well with rice. Filipino food has always tasted good but it’s never been pretty. Now, we’re making it a little bit prettier and also tasting good.
How many of them have you sold so far?
I can’t say. There are still emails I have to get back to about where we deliver them. When you do order doughnuts from us— anywhere in the Tristate area and all the five boroughs—I will deliver them myself. I understand you’re spending money on this. I want you to know it’s not just my assistant making thse. I take pride in this, and to me it’s a piece of art. The Golden Cristal Ube Donut was originally created for the holidays and I wanted something special. There has been enough interest that we will continue to creating this doughnut throughout the year.