Old Swiss Inn

After a quick dental check-up due to a bad toothache, we sought out our usual remedy—food! This time we went to the Old Swiss Inn, a long-standing restaurant located near the Ayala Triangle.

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Although we’d been here before on separate visits, this time we took the opportunity to really take in the feel of the place. The vibe was akin to that of a quaint dining hall somewhere in the Alps, with the added embellishment of Swiss flags on the ceiling. In short, this was a cozy but relaxed vibe for a casual meal.

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For our dining experience, we chose an old favorite, goulash, to start the meal. We also opted for light entrees such as King Salmon and Chicken Forrestiere. Of course, we could not leave without trying the signature Classic Toblerone Chocolate Fondue.

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Goulash: already ladled out for sharing

Compared to our previous experiences with goulash in other establishments, Old Swiss Inn’s  goulash has a stronger mix of tartness from the tomatoes and heat from the black pepper, making this concoction perfect for a crisp December day. This soup’s unique punch to the taste buds coupled well with the tender beef, potatoes, and peas within.

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King Salmon!

I would have preferred the King Salmon to have a lighter treatment with a vinagrette dressing and a side dish of green salad, however I still enjoyed how well this dish’s cream sauce and au gratin  side dish were conceptualized and executed. The salmon was cooked exactly how I liked it: crisp on the outside, yet juicy on the inside. On the side, the potato slices were firm but were yielding under the knife, and the onion rings were not overpowering. The sauces underneath cut the sharpness of the melted cheese topping the dish.

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Chicken Forrestiere

The Chicken Forrestiere was basically grilled chicken fillet with pepper gravy, on a bed of linguini pasta. This dish may have seemed simple, but Old Swiss Inn’s iteration is particularly thought-out. The chicken was well seared on the outside, locking in its natural flavors. The gravy had just the right amount of heat, with subtle flavors from a variety of mushrooms. This attention to detail is what took this dish several steps above home cooking.

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Classic Toblerone Chocolate Fondue

We finished off our hearty meal with dark chocolate fondue. Unlike other fondue establishments in the city, Old Swiss Inn prides itself on using actual Toblerone. This was evident in the nougat and nut bits we found in the chocolate. Paired with a selection of dippers such as fresh fruits and cake squares, our dessert was enough to send us into a blissful ‘food coma’.

Food Score: 4.5/5: Our meals were superb from start to finish. Each ingredient and element was well balanced and in harmony with its companions, making every bite a treat. This is not just hearty cooking; it’s hearty cooking done well!

Ambiance & Service Score: 4.5/5: Some patrons may be put off by the Swiss flag decor, but nevertheless the establishment maintains its homey charm. The service here is top notch, with attentive staff who can anticipate diners’ needs and take note of any requests.

GERD Score: 4/5 : At first glance, the servings may seem intimidating for persons dealing with heartburn. However these meals are very much designed for sharing, so bringing friends is encouraged. The dishes in themselves though are not triggers, as the preparation and ingredients are varied and done very carefully.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5: Although a hallmark of Swiss cooking includes the use of sausages and cured meats, there are still so other many dishes at Old Swiss Inn that utilize the freshest ingredients and go easy on the additives. Some individuals who are sensitive to alcohol may need to skip some of the fondues, or at least request that they not be made with liqueur.

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: This classy place is excellent for special family occasions, corporate events, or simply celebrating the best of times. We cannot have chosen better for a place to cap off a most interesting year!  

The Old Swiss Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Green Bar

Can the terms “vegan” and “comfort food” belong in the same sentence? The answer is a resounding YES if one is dining at Green Bar. This chic spot located at West of Ayala in Legaspi Village serves up a variety of light meal items as well as more substantial all-day breakfast and bowl sets, all with a uniquely healthy twist.

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We arrived here on an odd Saturday evening when we needed both comfort food as well as study fuel in preparation for a long night of reviewing for exams. Thankfully Green Bar had just what we wanted. We ordered the Queso Pop, which is Green Bar’s vegan take on the quesadilla, as well as the Texas BBQ bowl for a more substantial entree. Lee was in an adventurous mood, hence he ‘built’ his own bowl with a variety of greens, vegetables, and non-meat protein choices. We chose to wash this all down with two glasses of light and refreshing lemongrass pandan juice, ideal for cleansing the palate!

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The Queso Pop turned out not only to be larger than we expected, but also much heartier thanks to its being filled with a mix of three vegan cheeses: Chipotle Cheddar, cream cheese, and mozzarella. Each bite was molten comfort, with a slight spicy kick from the Chipotle Cheddar. This starter came with a small saucer of salsa fresca, which was a great tangy complement to the richness of the quesadilla.

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The Texas BBQ bowl was touted as being the perfect comfort bowl—and indeed it lived up to its reputation. There were some familiar favorites such as smashed potatoes, coleslaw, and chipotle dressing, as well as pleasant surprises such as “bacun”, a healthy yet flavorful coconut based alternative to bacon. The meal in itself was very filling yet not overly savoury, with the flavors of each ingredient nicely balancing out each other. We’d definitely recommend this not only for comfort food but even for carbo-loading purposes!

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As for the build your own bowl, the mixed greens and veggie spirals were fresh and crisp not just in appearance, but also with in terms of taste. The bbq tofu added some much needed bite with its sweet and peppery notes. The “bacun”, while not as smoky in flavors as its porky cousin, still offered a nice crunch. With the garlicky red rice, with a splash of balsamic vinaigrette bringing all these individual elements together, it became a guiltless treat in itself.

Green Bar also has its own daily specials as well as a small lineup of desserts and pastries to round off a meal. Also highly recommended are its breakfast selections and ‘handhelds’, which are healthy take-offs on sandwiches and burritos. We will certainly keep this place on the radar for future visits and study sessions!

Food score: 5/5. This place has fairly large portions that do not skimp in terms of flavor or freshness. Green Bar also has some of the best meat substitutes we’ve encountered so far in our food trips.

Ambiance/Service Score: 5/5: One perk of this place is its calm and cozy interior, reminding one more of a sedate lounge than a city cafe, making this spot excellent for meetings or quiet casual dining. The service is prompt and friendly, making dining here even more pleasant.

GERD Score: 4.5/5: Green Bar’s selections allow people with heartburn to immerse themselves with a meal but without the worry of having the acid act up badly. Depending on your appetite and serving size considerations, a bowl is good either for one or two people as well.

Epilepsy Score: 4.5/5: Fresh ingredients make this place a great stop for diners with restrictions on preservatives. Gluten free selections also are available here.  However one may want to go for less heavily seasoned choices or simpler dressings just to err on the safe side with allergies and sensitivities.

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: For a quiet dinner out, or pregaming before a long evening, this place fits the bill. We hope to be able to try the other recommendations such as the breakfast dishes soon!

Green Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pappadom-Masala

Swagat Indian Cuisine

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For a change of scenery from our usual haunts, we decided to explore the other side of Ayala Avenue into Legaspi Village for some Indian Cuisine here at Swagat.

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After entering the quaint restaurant, the strong hint of spices permeated through the entire place, a sign of an actual Indian eatery. The pink walls and random portraits added to the simplicity of the facade, and a casual place to dine.

Our dinner started with an appetizer of pappadom masala (a crisp deep fried lentil wafer with spices, onions, and tomatoes on top) each. Kat got some paneer korma (homemade cheese cooked with onions, tomatoes, and spices) and roti, with masala lassi (yogurt drink with masala) to wash it down. On the other hand, I ordered some sangam biryani (lean and tender pieces of chicken and lamb cooked with fresh herbs, spices, and Indian rice and in cream mughalai sauce), along with rose lassi (yogurt drink with rose petals).

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Pappadom Masala

The pappadom masala was a welcome start to our meal and got our palates going. The pappadom was full of flavor and the crispy texture blended well with the fresh tomatoes and onions on top.

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Sangam Biryani

The sangam biryani reminded me of a smaller portion of the ones I ate on a daily basis during my stint in Qatar, with the various South Asian eateries around the country. Choosing the mildest spice levels they had, I would say that it was just a touch above the right amount of heat for an ordinary Filipino tastes. The chunks of chicken and lamb absorbed the spices exceptionally well too. Washing it all down with the inherent sweetness of rose lassi became a nostalgic journey back to two years ago, during my stay in the Middle East.

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Paneer Korma

The paneer korma was the sort of dish that needs to be shared with friends, all equipped with plenty of bread. The spices give a subtle kick to the milder cheese and tomato flavors, which can also be enjoyed alongside other dishes. The masala lassi was more of an acquired taste, with the strong spices competing with the natural sourness of the yogurt in the drink.

Great things are coming up for Swagat, which  will be moving to their new location at The Columns Legaspi Village at Amorsolo St. cor. Arnaiz Ave. Makati City this December. It should be worth a check at their new home.

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Food Score: 4/5. Food wise, Swagat hits right on the mark with Indian home cooking flavors. At the same time, each dish is done well to complement each other.

Ambiance / Service Score: 3.5/5. The service was attentive enough for taking care of our needs. Unfortunately, the place doesn’t look cozy for anyone wanting to have a pleasant dinner.

GERD Score: 3.5/5. While there are plenty of options here at Swagat, it’s not a guarantee the spices don’t include the usual triggers such as chili powder. One saving grace is the fact that there are plenty of lassi and yogurt choices to help counteract the heat and the aftereffects of the heartburn.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. While there are plenty of food selections to suit all kinds of diets and restrictions, the heavily spiced dishes may not agree with some diners. We recommend in particular the non-alcoholic drinks section for a safe night out.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5. Swagat Indian Cuisine, simply put, is a quaint place for the curious to have a taste of home-cooked Indian food. And with their new spot in Arnaiz Avenue, it should still be worth a look at, if you’re just going out with friends and not too conscious about any health conditions.

Swagat Indian Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Advocafe

Our hot drinks and hearty meals do far more than just quench our appetites. What we pay for our food, more often than not, goes to fund an enterprise that we may not consciously think about when we are gathered for some grub. At Advocafe, one can see where the profits go—and the impact that a meal can have on the life of a community.

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We heard of Advocafe several years ago, from a student studying in the Ermita area of Manila. This was touted not only as a place with reasonably priced dishes, but also as an advocacy for the Philippines’ indigenous groups. At present there are around 110 indigenous ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines, comprised of 14-17 million persons. Many of their communities have difficulties with accessing basic services and utilities as well as preserving their local culture and traditions. There are several groups involved in the advocacies for indigenous groups, some of which have partnered with Advocafe to provide a venue for marketing indigenous coffee and other products.

It took us some time to find Advocafe owing to its being a relatively small location in a neighborhood of large businesses. Its relaxed and warm interior was the perfect place for us to stop for a leisurely brunch. We ordered the Biya (dried fish) all day breakfast meal, Pesto Pasta, and a cup of Hot Chocolate as well as a cup of Dilaw (Turmeric) herbal tea.

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The crispy Biya came with a cup of upland rice, with its signature reddish-purple grains. We realized that the perfect combination would be this Biya meal with the sweetish hot chocolate, the latter being perfect for pouring over the rice. The fish itself was not greasy or overly salty, giving some mild sharpness to the meal.

The Pesto Pasta was at least well cooked, with the pesto itself having a mild flavor. The Dilaw Tea was rather strong for our tastes, and we figured would be better for pairing with rice cakes.

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To cap off our brunch, we got a slice of Advocafe’s signature moist chocolate cake. To our delight this treat was not sickly sweet, but provided just a mild hint of dark chocolate. We recommend this for diners who may not be so accustomed to rough tablea flavors, but still want a taste of local dark chocolate.

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All net profits from Advocafe  go to educational programs for various indigenous groups in different parts of the country. These educational endeavors include livelihood training as well as adapting to climate change. Other local products such as tablea blocks and herbal teas are also available here on a retail basis. This is truly one place to dine for a cause.

Food Score: 3.5/5: While we certainly enjoyed the all day breakfast, we feel that their pasta could be improved in flavor and presentation. The portion sizes are reasonable for student and backpacker budgets.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4/5: The service here was fast, even at an early hour. The ambiance of this place is very inviting with its comfortable seating and warm colors. The photograph displays also help provide a bird’s eye view as to what Advocafe is all about.

GERD Score: 3.5/5 For anyone dealing with heartburn, there are some options one can select such as the cakes and tea, along with a meal or two. One could say that Advocafe is a good spot for an quiet afternoon snack.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5: Some of the breakfast selections involve processed meats such as hotdogs, which may not be tolerated by some diners. However the herbal teas and non-coffee selections make this place very worth the visit.
Team Glasses Score: 4/5 : Advocafe is a place with a heart: simple and reasonably priced food, with a mission to help others. We definitely recommend a visit to this place not only for the meals, but to also learn how you can help our countrymen from these indigenous groups.

Advocafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato