Hineleban Cafe

In this day and age, food and advocacy easily go hand in hand, as seen by drives such as “Restaurants Against Hunger” with different restaurants having special menus and donations for the refugees of Syria. Some establishments go a step further than advocacy by incorporating their causes in their everyday work, be it in their menus or in-house shops. An up and coming exemplar of this is the Hineleban Cafe, located near one of Makati City’s busiest districts.

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The word Hineleban is an indigenous term referring to the “Mother Tree” at the heart of a rainforest. The Hineleban Cafe is one of several projects of the Hineleban Foundation, which is dedicated to reforestation and empowering the Philippines’ indigenous peoples to take back their roles as custodians of the environment. The cafe is a venue for showcasing and marketing goods from the foundation’s research and development farm, the Tuminugan Farm in Bukidnon, Mindanao.

Much praise has been heaped on Hineleban Cafe for its coffee (which has helped make it a spot for gatherings and events). However, we at Team Glasses have long sworn off this brown gold for health reasons, so what could draw us to this cafe? The answer: adlai. Adlai (Coix lacryma-jobi) is a grain that is native to Southeast Asia. In the USA it is called “Job’s Tears” or Chinese Pearl Barley. It has been cultivated for both sustenance and medicinal purposes by different tribes in Zamboanga del Sur and other parts of Southern Philippines. In more recent years, adlai has been touted as a supplement or alternative to rice, owing partly for its health benefits as well as its acceptability to diners more used to rice, especially well milled white rice.

At Hineleban Cafe, dishes that would normally be served with a cupful of rice or a bowlful of pasta are instead graced with a generous serving of adlai.

 

We decided to have our adlai in two ways during our visit to Hineleban Cafe. We went with one of the all day breakfast meals: longganisa hubad served with egg and adlai, and with another more innovative idea which was longganisa bolognese, which was adlai cooked with a sausage and tomato ragout. To wash this all down we had hot chocolate and a cup of red berries caffeine free tea.

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A most creative tea strainer

The longganisa hubad plate was a good balance of flavors, with the starchiness of the adlai complementing well with the salty and garlicky mix from the longanisa. The salted egg salsa also added a subtle kick to the dish, which would be something we can suggest for anyone to start their morning with. Only nitpick here would be the oiliness, but that’s really the nature of the beast when it comes to longganisa.

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Not rice. That’s adlai for you

As we discovered, adlai makes a very interesting alternative to pasta, owing to its chewy texture. It is reminiscent of eating a plate of orzo, or Italian pasta shaped like a large grain of rice. However, adlai has a lighter flavor and a rather different mouth feel. When mixed with a ragout, such as in the case of the longganisa bolognese, one can have a delicious and very filling meal in a bowl. The ragout itself could have used a little bit of a kick, owing to its mild flavor, but we admit that this is a matter of personal preference.

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Adlai with a sausage ragout, Pinoy style!

For those who are not fans of adlai, Hineleban Cafe also serves dishes made with bread, and of course its selection of exquisite brewed coffees. What makes this cafe a must for future adventures is its way of bringing forward an often forgotten advocacy, which is that of furthering the role of indigenous peoples in protecting the environment. In this world today, we need voices to help each other speak out and promote new, sustainable ways of living. Thankfully, the Hineleban Foundation and the Hineleban Cafe are among them.

 

Food Score: 4/5: All things considered, such as getting used to the taste of adlai, Hineleban Cafe does a great job of integrating this grain with cafe favorites such as breakfast meals and pastas.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: Hineleban Cafe shares a space with a bike and surf shop, thus giving the surrounding area a busy, almost utilitarian feel. However the cafe itself makes good by making their space seem like a cushy urban loft. The selection of books in its reading nook are a great help too.

Service Score: 4/5: We arrived here on a quiet Saturday morning, and the place had only a few staff on hand. While we were very well served with much courtesy, we do hope that the service is able to keep up during peak hours like the dinner rush.

GERD Score: 4.5/5: Hineleban Cafe and its adlai are something worth trying, since there are plenty of menu options for people dealing with GERD. Also this is a good place for a spot of tea as well. Definitely worth a visit.

Neurodivergent Score: 4.5/5: All hail adlai for being gluten free! That alone is a great relief to some neurodivergents. The caffeine free tea is also worth a try here, and an option for those wanting hot drinks while their companions sip the coffee that Hineleban Cafe is known for.

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: Hineleban Cafe is more than just another “third wave” cafe or trendy yuppie spot; it’s really a cafe with a mission. And providing a reliable source of adlai to this city is a plus too. We hope that more people will visit this cafe and learn about its advocacy in the coming years!

Hineleban Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Gringo

 

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After several weeks of busy days, Kat and I finally had a quiet dinner out. In my case, I discovered Gringo after one of my classmates left for an assignment abroad. Having enjoyed my experience there, we went to Gringo at Legaspi Village for a Mexican food trip.

Dinner on a Friday night is always a lively event, and we arrived to a nearly packed restaurant around this time. The place exuded a rustic vibe with hints of their Mexican theme. Comfy and relaxed on a table for two, we looked at the menu. For me, I had a quarter of Gringo Southern Spice Chicken with some Mexican Rice and Smokey Beans, along with some Nachos. Kat, on the other hand, had Pork Adobada Burrito.

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Gringo Southern Spice Chicken

The Gringo Southern Spice Chicken was in some ways a misnomer in my opinion. It’s not even close to the heat from the typical Cajun-style chicken we all know, but more than made up for it by being flavorful. Each morsel of their spiced and juicy chicken, along with the smoked beans and the subtle Mexican rice made a tiring workday evening a truly enjoyable one. Only minor nitpick would be that the rice should have played a better role with some herbs or a hint more spice to it, but it doesn’t downplay the entire experience regardless.

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Pork Adobada

The burrito was so hefty it surely deserved to be named in capitalized letters. The meat and rice filling had just the right amount of spice and flavor so as not to overwhelm an eager diner. It is already a meal on its own for one, or an appetizer for two.

The servers here were on top of most everything we needed, which was impressive considering the busy shift. We’re passing some kudos down their way too.

When you’re craving for some great Mexican or Tex-Mex food but don’t want the usual clichés, hit up Gringo for a feast.

Food Score: 4.5/5: The bursts of flavor with every bite should be reason enough for several more visits in the future for us.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: Gringo’s simple and no frills approach, using mix and matched tables, well patterned planks of wooden walls, and open airy space, works best for casual and relaxed dining.

Service Score: 5/5: Notwithstanding the dinner crowd, our needs were quickly met by the servers roving around. It was a team effort all around for them.

GERD Score: 4/5: After dining here, my consensus was that Gringo should be a place visited by those dealing with GERD. While the serving size might be something to consider for someone dining here, the varied selections of food and drinks, and having someone tag along should still make the place worth a visit.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: Like a lot of Tex-Mex places, Gringo employs a mix of spices and seasonings that may be too much for patrons with food intolerances and hypersensitivity. However again there are always safe options on the menu

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: After our visit, we highly recommend going to Gringo for your lunch and dinner food cravings. Not only do they cater to the casual or meticulous tastes, they also give a great experience for those dealing with some medical concerns like ours.

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

Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria

A good many people would rank among their comfort foods heaping bowls of mac & cheese, spaghetti with meatballs, or alternatively, large slices of pizza with all the fixings. This is exactly what Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria caters, combining tried and tested favorites with their special take on Italian cuisine. An sister restaurant of the famed Mama Lou’s establishment, Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria is a great choice for casual dining, a quiet night out, or simply seeking food for the soul.

 

On our visit to this restaurant’s branch in Robinson’s Galleria, it took us some time to pick out entrees from their extensive selections of pizzas and pastas. Their long pastas are available in three kinds of sauces: pomodoro (tomato based), olio (oil based), and alfredo (cream based). Other types of pasta such as ravioli, lasagna, and macaroni are also on the menu. Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria also offers popular pizza combinations such as pizza margherita, as well as one of a kind toppings such as kimchi, clams, and foie gras. We eventually decided on two simple pastas: creamy salmon ravioli, and Macheroni (pommodoro, basil, and ricotta).

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The creamy salmon ravioli was relatively mild in terms of flavor, despite its being cooked with anchovies and capers. What made this a real treat was the restaurant’s very own homemade pasta, which made the ravioli itself chewy without being soggy. On the other hand, the Macheroni was a bit too creamy for my tastes, but it’s somewhat balanced by the salmon and basil. The bread was passable in any case.

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Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria also offers a range of appetizers, soups, salads, and even desserts. This place is great to begin a night on the town, or for a quiet dinner with family and friends. We hope to be back some day to sample the pizzas and other selections in this up and coming restaurant.

 

Food Score: 4/5: If comfort food is what one seeks, Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria has got it. This is not the place for gastronomy or novel combinations, however. That being said, flavors here are on the mild side of the spectrum. The real treat though is their pasta, which is made fresh in the restaurant each day.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: Despite its being situated in a mall, this place is a cozy haven, with chairs and lighting perfect for casual dining. No fancy light tricks or old bistro vibes here; this is a family restaurant through and through.

Service Score: 4.5/5: The staff are very attentive and prompt, adding to the homey feel of the place. Dishes are served hot and on time, with a little flair from the pepper mill of course.

GERD Score: 4/5: The selection of their menu definitely provide plenty of options for the ones who want their traditional taste, and those with adventurous ones. This trait definitely makes up for any meals that might trigger heartburn and other concerns

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: One great thing about Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria is the emphasis on fresh ingredients from the pasta, the pizza dough, and the sauces. The wide selection of dishes allows most sensitive diners to pick out something in accordance with their tastes and medical indications.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: For comfort food, Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria certainly has quite a bit to bring to the table. We hope that you, our readers, will give this cozy place a try soon!

Nonna's Pasta & Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vina Trang

A day after the Zao trip, I needed another solo  Vietnamese food trip to ease the sick days. This time around, I decided to sit down at Vina Thrang at Century City Mall for a nice bowl of healthy Pho for the weary foodie soul.

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For my stay here, I chose their Pho Nam which is a steaming bowl of flat rice noodles, beef broth, soft tenders and beef round steak. There was also some celery and spring onions mixed in as well..

The Pho’s broth was at my preferred temperature, with some hints of steam flowing up from the bowl. Just like in the tale of Goldilocks, “It’s not too hot, and not too cold. It was just right.” The soft tender pieces of steak were soft enough to be slightly chewy with some firmness. It was tender and well cooked, completing the comforting experience to the bowl.

Aside from the warm and fresh bowl of Pho, Vina Trang also provided a glass of their cool pandan tea in lieu of your typical house water. The restaurant also sells bags of the stuff. Instead of your typical tea bags, these leaves inside are whole for a purer flavor.

The theme of the place tries to balance both modernist chic with some paintings of typical everyday vietnam life, as we know it here in Manila, which makes the place cozy, but not too distanced from being what it is. A place where one can enjoy Vietnamese food as it should be, simple, straightforward, and unpretentious. This is definitely a place to try every now and then to get your Vietnamese food fix when you’re in the Century City Mall area.

Food Score: 4/5: Vina Trang manages to stick well to its Vietnamese roots with fresh ingredients and tried and tested methods of cooking it well.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The paintings around the restaurant brings the more modern look come to life here, which makes for a great casual place to dine.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers here were attentive to my needs and quite accommodating to my questions.

GERD Score: 4/5: The good thing about their menu selection was that the main ingredients are placed in, but I would hope that they also place markers if a particular item was spicy or not at any given time. The variety on drink selections is most welcome.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: The fresh ingredients are a great boon to the place, but sensitive diners may need to be cautious with some seasonings.  The drink selections offer plenty of non-caffeinated alternatives to complement the dining experience.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Overall, we think that Vina Trang is a place for anyone looking for a quick and healthy eat, while satisfying one’s Vietnamese food cravings.

Vina Trang Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Zao

In our many food travels, Pho remained to be our go-to choice when either one or both of us are sick. Unfortunately, this food journey was me coming down with the flu and wanted something hearty but helpful at the same time.

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Since Phat Pho at Serendra was closed, I asked Kat for other options and she recommended that I try Zao, the place where she first had a bite of what Vietnamese cuisine had to offer.

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For my time here, I chose the Zao Pho, a nice warm bowl of flank, brisket, meatballs, tendons and rice noodles, along with herbs, just like how they serve it in the South.

As a matter of preference, I’m partial to steaming hot broth and theirs was warm but not as warm as I would like. However to be fair, the subtle broth brought out the elements of the dish, from the fresh herbs used to the tenderness of the brisket and even the tendons. Tendons tend to be where people normally struggle in cooking it just right. The chefs at Zao nailed it, as the tender bite-sized pieces of tendon melts in the mouth.

Aside from the fancy-but-cozy feel of the place, I felt rather welcome at Zao from start to finish. The Zao Pho helped with making me feel slightly better from being sick because of the recent change of weather here in Manila.

Food Score: 4.5/5: I would have to say that their Zao Pho is really good and their other fares are both visually appealing and a treat to the senses.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: Zao’s décor may have looked intimidating at first glance, but I felt rather a home and comfortable here. The place provided a happy medium between elegance with privacy, and a date spot either with your friends or significant other.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers here at Zao were quite attentive to one’s needs and handles, be it my request for warm water to immediately taking care of any requests I have because I felt under the weather that day.

GERD Score: 4.5/5: I appreciated the fact that they provide the list of ingredients in each menu item, which can help people with heartburn or certain food allergies to pick out the food they can eat. At the same time, their menu offered many food options which was also helpful as well.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: Some flavorings and seasonings may not go down well with sensitive diners. That aside, the list of ingredients is a great help in picking dishes for those with hypersensitivity or medication interaction issues

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: The great thing about Zao is that Vietnamese food is mostly healthy and freshly served, give or take a few spices that some people have concerns with. The place is definitely a must-try and another great place to have some Pho during the sick days, or even on a lark.

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

Ted’s Kitchen

Although we spend 95% of our time in the city, there are occasions when work or classes bring us out of the metropolis. Last June, I spent much of my time with some classmates in the municipality of Santa Cruz, Laguna. The locale is known as being a gateway to many of the natural and historical wonders of the province, as well as a source of the creamy cheese known as kesong puti. After asking around a little about the favorite dining spots and food parks in the town, we decided to make an excursion to Ted’s Kitchen in Barangay Duhat, near the border of Santa Cruz and Pila.

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We quickly discovered that Ted’s Kitchen, in addition to its restaurant, also had its own bakeshop as well as bed-and-breakfast facilities. In fact it was the bakeshop and its assortment of cakes and pastries that caught my friends’ attention when we entered the premises. Over the course of two visits, we got to sample several specialty cakes and cheesecakes, among other meals and entrees.

One bestseller is the avocado cheesecake, a rich and hearty concoction with the subtle flavor of avocado. The texture of the fruit also mixes perfectly with that of the cheese, making it a dessert to travel miles for. Another favorite dessert was the chocolate bomb, a ganache cake topped with crunchy Maltesers. This confection is great combined with brewed coffee, some mint tea or earl grey or better yet the affogatto. These were definitely worth our impromptu tasting session after a long day on the field.

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Chocolate Bomb! We ended up bringing home several slices of this to Manila

Other treats worth trying are the blueberry cheesecake, the tiramisu as well as the lava cake. These are also great with coffee, or partnered with the different herbal teas available at the counter. Various breakfast plates, burger and steak dishes, and homemade pastas are also featured on the menu.

 

Food Score: 4.5/5: Many of the dishes at Ted’s Kitchen are homestyle American specialties done well such as burgers and steaks. However the real attractions are the baked goods, which are not overly sweet, and still preserve the rich flavors of nuts and chocolate.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The atmosphere is very cozy, evocative of toy chests and nooks of plants and rocking chairs. It is perfect for a brunch or lunch catching up with friends, a hearty family dinner, or even just alone time to read a good book.

Service Score: 3.5/5: The service here is best described as leisurely, which is perfect for those stopping by for a long lunch or dinner. Not so much for those on a hurry on the national highway.

GERD Score: 4/5: Their selection of meals and drinks here provides an ample amount of choices for anyone dealing with heartburn, from the pastries, drinks, and meals here.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: Some of the dishes rely on preserved meats such as sausages, which may be problematic for sensitive diners. However there is a great selection of herbal teas and fresh fruit shakes and juices that are excellent for neurodivergent diners who need to cut back on sugars and preservatives, or watch their food restrictions.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Laguna may be known for a good many delicacies such as kesong puti and buko pie, but the food from Ted’s Kitchen really should also be on the list of ‘foods to try’ for any traveler. But is any distance too far to travel for good food? We at Team Glasses will let you, our readers, be the judge!