Corner Tree Cafe Vegetarian Food

Amid all the brightly colored establishments on Jupiter Street, one particular restaurant that has caught my attention for some time is a quiet, homey looking nook on the corner of Jupiter and Saturn Streets.  It’s this unassuming facade, as well as a recommendation from a relative, that brought us to the Corner Tree Cafe Vegetarian Food—and one of the best dining experiences that Team Glasses has had so far.

We arrived here just past 6:30pm, eager to avoid the dinner rush. Right away we felt welcome in this cozy cafe, which was lit warmly with candles and old-fashioned lanterns on the tables and the counter.  Old pictures and simple prints added to the establishment’s intimate ambiance. It was enough to have us deciding to have a full course meal there, instead of just ordering one or two entrees and heading elsewhere for dessert.

For starters, we had Spanokopitas, a Greek appetizer consisting of spinach in filo pastry, served with a mint yogurt dip. This dish was served to us still warm, allowing us to appreciate the subtle flavour of the spinach combined with the mild tartness of the mint yogurt dip. It was exactly what we needed to whet our appetites in preparation for the entrees.

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Lee decided to try the Veg Bibimbap, which consisted of a variety of vegetables and mushrooms, served with red rice and a small saucer of kimchi. Although Lee had to remove some of the spicy bean paste that served as seasoning for this dish, we found that this did not detract too much from the taste of the bibimbap as a whole. All in all, this dish was very filling, leaving only a slight tingling on the tastebuds as opposed to a searing spiciness in the throat.

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I chose the North African Vegetable Stew, which was a mix of vegetables cooked in Moroccan spices, served over either red rice or couscous. For adventure’s sake I chose couscous, and I am happy to say that I did not regret this. The couscous was light on the palate yet very filling. As for the vegetables, they were served still warm and crisp, and nowhere near limp or soggy. Although I was warned that this dish contained capsicum, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the hotness of this dish was not overwhelming, but just enough to give some more kick to the food’s light flavours. There was only one thing wrong with this dish: there wasn’t enough of it!

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For dessert we had the Chocolate Mousse with Dark Toblerone. I was half expecting a very thick and rich concoction, but I was delighted to be greeted with a light, delicately flavoured confection topped with almonds. The mousse had just the right amount of sweetness to make its chocolate flavour more appealing even for diners who are not into dark chocolate. This, as well as a pot of hot tea, was the perfect conclusion to our already very filling and satisfying meal.

The Corner Tree Cafe Vegetarian Food may be considered as one of the more hidden gems on Jupiter Street, but it is definitely one worth a visit…or maybe two or more. It’s proof that eating healthy and vegetarian can be fun and delicious, something worthy of gourmets and gourmands alike.

The Food Score:  5/5. The menu is proof that vegetarian food is far more than salad: everything from burgers to Filipino favourites such as adobo and sinigang can be found here.  There are also weekly specials (written on a blackboard) that offer diners new dishes in addition to the already expansive selection here. The quality of the food is excellent and the dishes are reasonably priced. There are even potluck options for those who wish to order in bulk to bring some of this  goodness to events.

Ambiance/Service Score:   5/5. The cafe allows for an intimate dining experience; soft lighting, cozy arrangements of the tables, and relaxing music all add to this atmosphere. The menu here is printed in a very user friendly manner, showing which dishes are gluten free, or which have capsicum. A small glossary also accompanies the menu. The staff members are very welcoming and are more than happy to provide clarifications about the menu

GERD Score: 5/5. Because of the chili-induced heat for that Bimbimbap and other meals, the café / restaurant elaborates and puts out warnings for their diners if a certain dish has capsicum or spices. And even if you can’t get a certain dish, there’s plenty of delectable options still. Other than that, I definitely recommend the place, even if you’re dealing with heartburn.

Epilepsy Score:  5/5.  Finally we found a place that explains the ingredients as well as tries its best to source food from organic sources. Although this is a cafe, there is a wide selection of non caffeinated drinks such as juices and even lassi (a yogurt drink) for diners who are sensitive to caffeine.
Team Glasses Score: 5/5. Yes, we will definitely be back for more. It  is not often we get to dine at a place wherein the food is just as welcoming and healthy as the ambiance, and we consider the Corner Tree Cafe Vegetarian Food as one of those that hit the spot.

Corner Tree Cafe Vegetarian Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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An adventure in Vietnamese Cuisine: Ba Noi’s

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Since I got back here, one particular cuisine always comes up when discussing our culinary adventures. Besides our liking for Japanese, Italian, and Middle Eastern food in no particular order, Vietnamese comes out as third in Kat’s list, because of some previous culinary adventures and the reputation of Vietnamese cuisine as being somewhat healthy, at least compared to some Filipino cooking. Thankfully, we finally found some time to try out the food at Ba Noi’s, on Perea Street in Makati.

After a lot of debate over the rather extensive menu, Kat took the Bun Ga Nuong Xa which is grilled lemongrass chicken over dry rice noodles. I, on the other hand, had Bo Luc Lac which stir-fried beef served with fried basil leaves and a salt and pepper dip with lime. To wash it all down, we ordered some Jasmine Tea.

The Bo Luc Lac is a well-balanced dish with the medium rare beef, fried basil, and dip complementing each other in the tightrope of getting different flavors to jive well together. It’s perfect with the plain rice I ordered, but at the same time, had to set aside the chili and the seeds as much as I could. If medium rare isn’t your thing, one can definitely ask if the chef could meet it to your standards (but whatever you do, don’t butcher it by asking for a well-done). The salt and pepper dip that comes with this dish is a simple but delicious touch.

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On the other hand, the lemongrass chicken came of as more hot and peppery than tart and lemony. This wasn’t entirely a surprise, knowing that Vietnamese cuisine shares some similarities with other Southeast Asian cuisines such as Thai. As it was, the rice noodles made an interesting contrast to the rest of the very savory ingredients.

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And the Jasmine tea is a nice touch to cleanse the palate after a savory meal.

The place had a casual metropolitan chic feel to it, well suited for its casual dining feel. If you’re going for something authentic-looking, this isn’t the place. Otherwise, the place is definitely worth a shot.

Food Score: 5/5. As food goes, Ba Noi’s is spot on and if Kat’s red cheeks after eating all the spicy goodness is concerned, a moment of perfection. This place also serves Vietnam drip coffee, which is reputed to be good (and Kat still mourns the fact that she cannot have any of this drink).

Ambiance / Service Score: 4/5. The servers are attentive enough and catered to our needs well. And the modernist interior is neat and visually pleasing to dine in.

GERD Score: 2.5/5. Thankfully there are options, but unfortunately, not many for someone dealing with heartburn because Vietnamese cuisine has bird’s eye chili as a staple.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. In general, dishes here do not rely on preserved meats or artificial seasonings, which is a good thing. Unless one is triggered by chilis, this place should be pretty safe.

Team Glasses Food Score: 4/5. Ba Noi’s definitely meets up our expectations of a good Vietnamese restaurant, having both good food and a comfortable place to eat. We enjoyed our experience here and recommend the place for those who want to take a bite of Vietnamese cuisine.

To our readers, if you have any suggestions as to which restaurant or cafe you’d like us to try next, go to our Contact Us page and let us know your thoughts and suggestions.

Ba Noi's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yalla Yalla Express

When the terms “Middle Eastern food” and “to-go” are combined in the same sentence, what often comes to many people’s minds is shawarma in all its pungent pita-wrapped glory, or freshly seared kebabs. One place that is out to challenge this notion is Yalla Yalla Express, which features Lebanese cuisine, located on Don Pedro Street in Poblacion, Makati.

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We espied this tiny restaurant during our previous forays in the area, but we only got around to trying it out one late afternoon, thanks to feeling a little peckish after work. From outside we could already smell the rich flavours of roasted beef and chicken shawarma, and just the slightest hint of spices. Inside the simply furnished restaurant, we immediately found the posted menu, which aside from shawarma, also offers beef kebab, falafel, shish taouk (chicken skewers), and sujuk (spicy sausage).  These meat choices can be served up either as wraps, or with rice. Yalla Yalla Express also has sandwiches, brick oven pizzas, and traditional dips such as hummus and moutabal (roasted eggplant)

Since we decided that our meal was to be an early dinner, we opted to try the shish taouk and the sujuk, both served with turmeric rice. Each meal came with Lebanese picked vegetables (cucumber, tomato, and beetroot), as well as onions tossed with pepper and spices. These vegetables provided a welcome contrast to the heady tastes of the meat and turmeric rice. Unlike many pickled vegetables which are tart and sometimes almost acrid, Lebanese pickled vegetables are more sweet-sour, even refreshing in flavor.

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The shish taouk was cooked enough to lock in the subtle flavour of the chicken meat, but not too much to the point of drying it out. On the other hand the sujuk’s spiciness was more than the simple, explosive heat of chilis; it was a deep flavour that lingered on the tongue and yet did not overwhelm the palate.  A nice addition was the presence of garlic sauce as well as chilli sauce, allowing for diners to add a little more savor to the food. The only thing missing in our dining experience was a tall glass of yogurt to wash it all down.

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At this point Yalla Yalla Express is still in its soft opening phase. We hope that more customers will give this place—and Lebanese cuisine—a try. It is indeed a hidden gem in the labyrinth of Poblacion.

 

The Food Score:  4.5/5. This is true for both flavour and quality, as well as authenticity. Lee says that the food we had was just almost like the food he enjoyed during his stint in the Middle East. The slight bugaboo we had was finding the turmeric rice to be on the oily side, but this didn’t detract much from our enjoying the meal. The prices are a bit higher than what one would expect for take-out meals, but the quality certainly justifies the cost.

 

Ambiance/Service Score:   4/5. Our food came in takeout boxes, which we suppose is due to this place being an ‘express’ establishment that can cater to those on-the-go. This, along with the minimalist furnishing of the restaurant, made our experience feel a little less homey. However the service was efficient and friendly, something we definitely appreciated

 

GERD Score: 4/5. Normally, when one combines the words “meat” and “rice”, one would think that it’s a recipe for heartburn disaster, but in this case, even with the slight oily feel from the rice, the food is pretty good for someone managing it. Again, triggers differ from one person or the other, but as long as you chew slowly and set aside the trigger food, you’ll be fine.

 

Epilepsy Score:  4/5. Dishes here do not make use of processed meats, which is a relief to those who cannot eat items laden with preservatives. However diners who are sensitive to spices may need to eschew some of the meals like the rice boxes we had.

 

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. This place is still in its soft opening, but already we can consider dining here to be rather worthwhile. We look forward to coming back for even better Lebanese food next time around.

A taste of home: Dekada

It’s been a long hiatus of sorts from our last write up, but thankfully, TeamGlasses is back for more.

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After buying our tickets for Beauty and the Beast’s  8pm showing, we realized that we had enough time for a nice and relaxed dinner, and we’re long overdue for another review from our own country’s cuisine. Our feet led us to a place called Dekada, that prides itself in Filipino cuisine with their own brand of humor, naming each dish after personalities and groups in certain time periods such as “Murphy” for the crispy Pla Pla fish we had here, “Kempetai” for the gising-gising, or “Quirino” for a daily dose of adobo flakes.

In any case, Kat and I decided to go for a light dinner this time around and split the pla pla fish since the entrée serving sizes here at Dekada are good for two people. While my order of plain rice was a bit drier than my preference, the fish was delectable. The crunch and balanced seasoning play a cheerful ditty in the taste buds, which great enough that I hazard to say that it will definitely go well with any pulutan or perhaps in our case, a movie to catch later. The meat and skin weren’t oily which is the surprising part, compared to the usual story when people fry fish in most of my memories in Philippine cuisine. The pieces of fried talong did go well with the fish but I think it could do without the atchara.

Food Score: 4/5. For a place that serves Filipino food, one can rest easy in the fact that they are able to make their dishes come close to home cooking. Our experience with the Murphy was excellent. Dekada also has a delectable selection of merienda fare and cold drinks (which Kat has sampled on a previous visit), that make this place also ideal for lazy afternoons with family and friends

Ambiance / Service Score: 4/5. Dekada gives the feel of a cozy 1950s home that thankfully is well lit and the servers are readily available to cater to our concerns.

GERD Score: 4/5. Normally, anything fried gives me burping fits and the occasional acid climbing up my throat, but their crispy fish is one of the few examples that it can be done and sufferers from heartburn can still eat these types of food. While their menu has some of the usual culprits of heartburn triggers, there’s plenty of other options to choose from thankfully.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. The problem though with Filipino cooking as a whole, and thus many of the dishes in this restaurant, is it does tend to lean on the salty and sometimes spicy side, which may be problematic for people who are sensitive to these seasonings. That aside, the diverse menu is friendly for most taste buds and medical contraindications; there’s something for most people.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. Overall, we enjoyed our experience here and found another great place where we can enjoy Filipino meals without having to worry about our respective health conditions. We’ll come back again for the merienda.

How do you like your tonkotsu? (A night at Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen)

When it comes to finding great ramen, perhaps the question shouldn’t be ‘where is the best ramen in the city?’ but more of ‘how do you like your ramen?’  Ramen is made with a variety of toppings, seasonings, and broth bases. Among the more easily recognizable varieties are miso broth, shoyu flavoured broth seasoned with Japanese soy sauce, and the celebrated tonkotsu broth made from slow boiling pork bones in order to make a rich, heavy soup that lingers on one’s lips and tongue.

Among the many ramen restaurants in Metro Manila, one chain that specializes in tonkotsu broth is Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen. Aside from its original tonkotsu ramen with chasu pork, nori seaweed, and vegetables, the menu features different additions and twists to the traditional dish such as black garlic tonkotsu, or even vegetables and cheese tonkotsu. After all, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to what ramen should or should not be.

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One quiet weeknight we decided to stop by for a much needed ramen fix. For the sake of adventure we veered away from the original tonkotsu offering and tried out some of the variations on the menu; Lee had the ebi (prawn) tonkotsu, while I ordered the tan tan tonkotsu, which was basically the regular tonkotsu ramen with a dollop of spicy seasoning. To wash it all down, we made sure to get a whole pot of plain black tea on the side.

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Unfortunately for us we realized that it was possible to have too much of a good thing when it came to ramen. The prawn’s distinct flavour competed with the equally hearty one of the tonkotsu broth instead of complementing it. The same was true for the tan tan tonkotsu; after a while, all I could taste was the oily spiciness instead of the milder tastes of the noodles, the nori, and the ground pork. I probably wouldn’t have finished my meal if it had not been for drinking down so much tea just to cleanse my palate.

Lesson? Sometimes simpler is better—and that’s true for tonkotsu ramen. Some ramen soup bases are just platforms for heavier ingredients, but tonkotsu deserves to be the star of the show.

The Food Score:  3/5. The problem with clashing flavours isn’t only true of the bowls we ordered; during other visits to different branches, I’ve found that other concoctions such as the vegetables and cheese ramen don’t do the tonkotsu broth much justice. However the individual ingredients such as the chasu pork are cooked to perfection, and the house tea is calming and great for washing down a meal.  There are also rice options and side dishes for diners wanting more than ramen for the meal.

Ambiance/Service Score:   4/5. The service here was fast and efficient, something much appreciated given the customer traffic in the restaurant. The ambiance felt rather rushed and less homey, and not like a place wherein one can leisurely enjoy a hefty dish.

GERD Score: 3.5/5. While one’s preference on ramen is a matter of personal taste, the place offers some options at the very least for people with heartburn such as the ebi tonkotsu. However, half of the ramen options have the usual heartburn culprits, from cheese to chili, which makes the place not completely heartburn friendly.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5. Most ingredients in ramen, especially the traditional tonkotsu broth aren’t known triggers for epilepsy. However if one is sensitive to gluten, then ramen is out of the food options; gluten-free noodles are not offered here. There are also fresh juices and water for patrons who cannot have sodas or alcohol, which are offered on the menu.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5. In terms of value for money, one can definitely get full with a ramen bowl from here. However for us, the quest for our favorite ramen place in town still continues.

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eating and Cooking with Heartburn

Before having heartburn, I loved to try new things with food, from Japanese curry to a recipe a friend from Mauritius gave me, which was frying up butternut squash with fenugreek seeds. And of course, I loved eating spicy food, even learning to make my own kimchi while I was working in the middle east.

But like all good things, it came to an end in a spectacular way when I kept on burping on the way home after drinking only a bottle of beer. Just imagine all the foam and feeling that I wasted good craft booze that deserved better. This meant going to the gastroenterologist to have it looked at.

Lo and behold, I felt my foodie adventures disappear in an instant when he said that I had heartburn. I already expected him to give me a list of all the bland food I’d have to eat, but I think the fates were kind that day. The physician said that when I find food or ingredients that triggers the acid build up and burping, I should take note and avoid them. Of course the usual suspects were in the list, like citrus fruits, coffee, alcohol, milk, fried or spicy food. However, I didn’t expect eggs to be one of my triggers.

Since I live alone, eggs should probably have been the easiest to cook protein for a balanced diet; however, I only discovered I couldn’t eat them when Christmas time came. It was two weeks before Christmas when my landlord gave me a large tray of eggs, around 30 pieces in total for the holidays. Thankfully this saved me a trip to the grocery when the funds were tight. I first tried making sunny-side up and ended up burping like crazy even if I chewed slowly or at less. I then tried scrambled eggs with the same result, and later to progressed all the way to hard-boiled and soft-boiled egg. After the last attempt, I shook my head and gave the remaining eggs to my sister. I think for a week I couldn’t even look at the pack of pancake mix I was aiming to use.

But when there’s a will, there’s a way. I discovered ways around the thought of eating bland food by making hand tossed salads without the ranch or thousand island dressing, using reduced amounts of oil whenever I need to fry something, boil ingredients whenever possible, going less on the salt and processed foods, and if I have to eat something not exactly good for me, I eat just a few tablespoons of the stuff and then move on. Using fresh ingredients and light sauces as much as possible is one’s valued ally in not being stifled at every turn. I also had to teach myself how to chew thoroughly and slowly because I used to eat fast and plenty.

Another thing I’ve tried is drinking probiotic drinks or eat some yogurt every now and then. After reading up on a study on the benefits of probiotics for the stomach (Del Piano, M. et al… Capurso L. (2006), “Probiotics: from research to consumer”, Digestive and Liver, 38), I decided to give it a shot even if I knew dairy and I had a fickle, if not warlike, relationship. In a few weeks of drinking and stocking up on those two things, I’ve noticed that I wasn’t burping as often or as hard as before. And then out of sheer desire, I decided to give a glass of red wine a try. Thankfully, it didn’t cause me to be a burping mess again. Just a rumble or two but nothing beyond that. Hopefully there will be definitive study on it soon.

I’ve come to the present day realization that changing the way I cook, eat and drink helps keep heartburn or GERD at bay, giving one the opportunity to still be a foodie without sacrificing my health in the process. And anyone can do it given time, planning, and becoming the master of what you eat and drink, not the other way around.

Team Glasses in the Kitchen: the 3 Dip Adventure

Of course there are days wherein we just aren’t up to the task of adventuring through the city in the name of finding healthy food. Last Saturday was one such occasion, and so we decided to whip up our own snacks at home instead of getting food to-go or ordering in. After a little searching and tweaking, we agreed to try out three dip recipes that hopefully wouldn’t trigger another of Lee’s GERD attacks:

  •         Yogurt and cucumber (a little bit like the Persian appetizer must o’ khiar)
  •         Cottage cheese with mint and coriander
  •         Salsa Fresca

Our ingredients ran as follows:

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For the yogurt and cucumber dip:

  •         200 grams of Greek yogurt      
  •         1 cucumber                                    
  •         Ground black pepper   

                                             

For the cheese dip

  •         200 grams of cottage cheese  
  •         15 grams of fresh coriander     
  •         3 fresh mint leaves
  •         Ground black pepper     

           

For the salsa fresca

  •         6 native tomatoes                       
  •         15 grams of fresh coriander     
  •         1 lemon                                            
  •         1 red onion       

             

All in all, these ingredients cost us just around 380 pesos—quite a bargain considering that a jar of commercially available salsa or cheese dip would cost around 180 to 250 pesos.

First up for preparation was the yogurt and cucumber dip, since we wanted to keep this as cold as possible. We peeled the cucumber and chopped it into cubes. Then we mixed the cucumber bits in with the Greek yogurt and added in a little pepper for a bit of extra kick.  

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The cheese dip was also just as straightforward: we chopped up the coriander leaves and the mint, and blended them all in with the cottage cheese and a little pepper. The resulting dip was rather chunky and mild, even for our tastes. Alternatively, we could have used a different cheese such as ricotta, or a blend of cottage cheese and another cheese such as cheddar for a zingier taste.

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Likewise.the salsa fresca  was also fairly simple: we chopped the tomatoes into chunks, and the onion and coriander into smaller pieces. We tossed all of these with the juice of one whole lemon and a quick mixing up.

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How long did it take for us to put all of this together? Just half an hour.

All in all, we had all these three dips and Lee’s GERD wasn’t triggered even after we went through a pack and a half of Melba toast with the three dips. In fact we still had plenty left over for the next day. We surmised that perhaps we should have invited two more friends over to share the food ,as well as tried other snacks for dipping such as carrot sticks, crackers, or slices of flat breads such as chappati, paratha, or pita. Most importantly we realized that GERD-friendly cooking did not necessarily mean bland cuisine. We could still experiment with a wide range of sharp and subtle flavors, and yet still avoid triggering another attack of reflux. It’s something that we will definitely keep in mind for our upcoming culinary experiments.

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Stay tuned for our next adventures in the kitchen!