We have plenty of doughnut shops in Metro Manila, but we don’t take them very seriously. For the most part, people seem to be satisfied with the current selection of doughnuts from the big chains, which are mainly about the delivery of sugary sweetness than anything else. Special releases of doughnuts tend to be more about creating fanciful designs that will attract children more than anything else. There isn’t much thought put into the dough and how it should taste, or creating new flavor combinations that might work well within this particular pastry form.
But enter Poison, a collaboration between the Tasteless food group, the Hydra Design Collective, and Yardstick Coffee. It is an unusual little shop that just puts a little more care and attention into their doughnuts.
It’s really all in the chew. The dough is a mix of brioche and sourdough, striking a medium between the pillowy softness that people are accustomed to with their doughnuts, and a bready firmness that makes it feel more substantial. There’s just a slight yeast flavor that cuts through the various layers of flavor that these doughnuts end up being treated to, which is a real achievement considering the aggressiveness of the flavorings.
It’s really all in the chew.
The easiest doughnut variant to recommend is also the simplest: the vanilla glazed. It might at first just look like any other sugar glazed doughnut, but when you look closer, you can make out the little flecks of real vanilla. Poison reportedly uses the entire bean pod in preparing the glaze, and it really comes through in the taste. People looking for something more adventurous should jump straight to the garam masala, which basically uses the Indian spice blend in a more distinctly Asian facsimile of your standard cinnamon sugar doughtnut. There’s a savory kick to it that makes one wish the shop would serve some of their doughnuts warm. Those looking for chocolate would be served well by the shop’s salted chocolate doughnut, the pastry covered in a bittersweet coating that offers a headier cacao punch than any other chocolate doughnut in Metro Manila.
There are just seven kinds of doughnuts on sale right now, and they seem to be keeping quantities low. This just isn’t the kind of place where you take out six boxes of doughnuts. They aren’t, after all, serving a doughnut that you can just inhale. You have to reckon with it: contemplating the chew of the dough, experiencing the various components that went in the glazes. And to Poison’s credit, they have provided a contemplative space for people to do just that. It’s located at the end of The Alley at Karrivin, though you can’t quite see it from the mouth of the passageway. The shop offers up an immediate contrast from the otherwise brightly decorated spaces of The Alley. It’s dark and foreboding, with little more than a bright purple neon sign and an LED lightboard illuminating the space. There is perhaps some acknowledgement that the doughnut isn’t the bright and happy food that its bigger vendors seem to think it is. It is an indulgence, a dangerous treat that is likely leading us to our deaths. But there are always going to be dark spaces where that kind of depravity is welcome.