One of the most readily mentioned health foods—regardless of trends and fads—is Cucumis sativus, or more commonly known as the cucumber. It has been touted as a refreshing source of micronutrients such as magnesium and potassium, as well as antioxidants that help protect the body from the effects of stress and toxins. It is only fitting that this fruit should lend its name, albeit in the Filipino language, to a healthy dining restaurant on Malingap Street, Teachers Village, Diliman in Quezon City.
Pipino is one of three restaurants located on 39 Malingap Street; one of its neighbors, Pi Breakfast and Pies, is dedicated to baked delicacies and hearty morning meals. The other, Pino, is a sleek and edgy casual dining restaurant and bar. Pipino on the other hand specializes in vegan dishes inspired from various Southeast Asian as well as Italian cuisines. The restaurant with its small store has a fresh and airy garden-type ambiance. Casual and comfortable seating and homey accent pieces add to the serene vibe, perfect for a leisurely dinner, or in my case, a girls’ brunch out.
My friends and I dropped in at the beginning of the long weekend, as part of kicking off some newfound resolutions for healthy eating. In light of this, it took us a while to peruse the menu of vegan Filipino dishes, eager to find a new take on some of our favorite flavors. We decided to try out the potato chilaquiles, the vegetable kare-kare, the tofu satay, and the portobello inasal.
The potato chilaquiles, a platter of fresh potato chips topped with chili con lentils, salsa, jalapenos, and vegan mayo capers, is clearly meant for sharing or as ‘bar chow’. Despite the presence of chili peppers, the sauce is more of tangy than actually hot and spicy, and thus will not force diners into consuming copious amounts of beverages to beat the heat. It was an excellent way to whet our appetites for the coming entrees.
The vegetable kare-kare has been touted as a vegan version of the kare-kare of Pino, with beans and eggplant in lieu of the traditional ox tripe. Everything was still topped with the traditional peanut sauce, and served with a side of black bean bagoong. As I have an allergy to the usual seafood bagoong, this vegan version was a welcome surprise for me. No flavors were skimped or lost in this healthy take on a Filipino favorite.
The tofu satay came as a pair of grilled tofu and vegetable skewers, served with satay sauce and brown rice. The tofu was delicately seared on the outside, yet firm and moist on the inside. The vegetables were also carefully grilled, brushed only with oil to preserve their natural flavors. The satay sauce did not overwhelm this precise mixture, but added a mild and slightly earthy backdrop to the tastes of the tofu, tomato, and zucchini. This is a hearty yet ‘guilt-free’ dish for the calorie conscious.
The portobello inasal was also a welcome surprise; I had encountered various ways to cook mushrooms but inasal had never crossed my mind till this particular meal. The roasted mushroom was served on top of brown rice, with red beet puree as well as an eggplant ensalada salad. The inasal cooking method had imparted a slightly earthy flavor to the outside of the mushroom, but still locked in its natural juices. The red beet puree provided a slightly sweet contrast to the mushroom, while the eggplant salad was an excellent way to clean the palate.
A plethora of other Filipino favorites, as well as pastas, salads and desserts are featured on Pipino’s menu. The cookies and pastries are also available in the in-house store. Among the restaurants in the Maginhawa Street/Teachers Village stretch, this is one place that can cater to diehard vegans as well as newcomers to healthier food choices. It is worth traveling across the city for. More power to the chefs and staff of this wonderful haven, and we at Team Glasses look forward to coming back here soon.
The Food Score: 5/5: This is a place that does vegan and healthy food right: flavors locked in, few spices and seasonings, and fresh ingredients. It’s a far cry from the ‘rabbit chow’ feel so associated with some other establishments. While the food is a little above the student budget range, the prices will not break the bank or leave a diner in debt.
Ambiance/Service Score: 5/5: The airy second-floor location is perfect for a relaxed dining experience, far above the hustle and bustle below. The service is prompt, friendly, and helpful. Although it may take time for the food to be served, the dishes are worth the wait.
GERD Score: 5/5: The selections are plentiful, allowing for persons coping with GERD to more easily pick foods that will exclude any triggers. The serving sizes are manageable, and good for either sharing or solo scoffing—with less risk of reflux.
Epilepsy Score: 5/5: The style of cooking here uses few additives and seasonings, thus making the dishes safer for persons with adverse reactions to these substances. Preserved ingredients are scarce. The restaurant’s ambiance is devoid of harsh lighting and loud sounds, making it a safe space to dine.
Team Glasses Score: 5/5: We’d travel miles again for this restaurant and its specialties. While this is not a place for students to hold study groups and cramming sessions in (despite its location in proximity to some universities), this is more of a place to celebrate the beginning of the weekend, or take a break from the chaos of the city.