In this crispy pata/sisig/lechon loving country of ours, there is indeed a case for eating a bit better and healthier.
I tip my hat to those who’ve blazed the trail – like vegetarian restaurants like Bodhi in the food courts (though I think they just used a lot of meat substitute such as seitan – or wheat gluten - which a chef friend of mine hates and calls “satan”) or Corner Tree Café – arguably the first restaurant who took vegetarian cooking to another level – or even Denise Celdran’s Edgy Veggy who delivers veg these meals to your front door.
I’m not saying we should all go vegetarian, of course, although doing so a few times a week does have its benefits, not just for general health but for the environment as well. No, it’s just that vegetarian restaurants are what easily comes to mind when you say “healthy eats”.
Nowadays, It’s good to know that it’s possible to eat well and eat healthily when going out. Watching what you eat doesn’t mean you have to be on some fad starvation diet – and that’s mainly because more chefs are doing fun things with food that’s actually good for you. That’s probably the best food “trend” we can ask for, really, don’t you think? So eat more of these kinds of foods and save the rib eye, fries, chicharon bulaklak and lechon kawali with garlic rice for weekends or special occasions.
In no particular order are some of the healthiest discoveries I’ve tried recently. Still haven’t been to The Wholesome Table, nor tried Jam Melchor’s Healthy Eats food delivery, and I’m still waiting for Bianca Mabanta’s new restaurant.. but in the meantime, chow down on these and don’t feel guilty..
- Salmon Donburi – Your Local – Check it: rare Norwegian salmon, skin torched crisp, with tobiko and ebiko on roasted corn and shiitake wild rice. The idea behind this is so thoughtful and simple, and it tastes like gold. I didn’t want my bowl to empty. Ask for it with a soft boiled sous vide egg – break the yolk and let it dribble into the umami filled wild rice. Oh yes.
- Octopus Salad – Wildflour – Octopus is such an underused seafood in these parts – and admittedly takes some technique to get it right - but when you get it tender and caramelized like Wildflour does – and mix it with mango, and cabbage, and dress it well? You’ve got a healthy winning meal right there.
- Shakshuka – Blackbird – I’ve been here exactly ONCE with my folks, and haven’t been back, also because it’s a bitch to get a ressie. However, my one and only time was actually quite the grand experience – this restaurant is breathtakingly beautiful. Service and food is what you can expect from Colin McKay – and though some say they’re still getting their kitchen groove, my Eggs Shakshuka was brilliant for a light Sunday brunch.
- Eggs Traviata – Toby’s Estate – Yeah, they’re best as coffee peddlers, but their food ain’t bad either. This Traviata, baked eggs with roasted tomatoes and basil, and served with a great piece of bread (one of my favorites, actually) is a satisfying go-to breakfast that will send you on your way for the rest of the day.
- Greek Yogurt – Greek Yogurt – A sleeper hit caught in a quiet corridor of Century Mall, this place has deliciously thick, creamy and tangy yogurt by the gram. I had mine with some walnuts and yogurt, but you can opt for fruits if you wish. Go, please, because sadly, this place is perennially empty.
- Black Bean Cakes – The Bowery – Make no mistake; this comfort food joint is driven by meat. They do however have this one seriously filling vegetarian dish – and a delicious one at that: black bean napoleon – black bean cakes layered with spinach, corn, shiitakes, red peppers, cheese, and served with a spicy tomato sauce and sweet potato mash. Food coma? Yes, guaranteed. But you’ll be smiling.
- Miso Broiled Salmon – Todd English – ‘Twas my pop who first ordered this. He asked for it medium rare – and I suggest you do too. It’s like buttery sashimi, with an umami filled miso glaze to take it over the top. It’s served with mashed pots, but you know what? Go for it and eat it with some hot rice, if you want. It’s a perfect combination.
- Lah Lah Land Popia – Spring By Ha Yuan – This is the lovechild of Singaporean popiah and fresh Hokkien Chinese veggy lumpia. Filled with shrimp, scallions, egg, cucumbers and belachan and kecap manis (sweet soy), it’s perfect as a filling snack or as a light meal.
- Poke – Patricio’s – In case you haven’t been to Patricio’s yet, this is a one of a kind hole in the wall inside Taguig. The menu is built around ceviches and kinilaw – the obsessions of owner Pat Roa – using recipes he’s researched during his travels as a commercial pilot. To start your journey here, check out poke, a Hawaiian creation, essentially chopped fish with a base of sesame oil and soy sauce. It obviously has Japanese influence, and is an easy eat. Watch it disappear just like that!
- Roasted Kalabasa – Sarsa – When I want to feel virtuous yet still silence my raging hunger pangs, my latest go-to is this satisfyingly simple squash dish. I ask for extra ginamos (Ilonggo bagoong) and their XO sauce (to add spice – highly addictive!) and eat it with red rice. Gives you a big hit of flavor, plus it can fuel you up for whatever else you have to do.