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

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Triple Header: Tambai Alley

For our latest food adventure, we decided to delve further into the lesser travelled haunts of the Poblacion area. Since Tambai Alley is situated farther from its rambunctious counterparts at the main strip, we thought it was worth a visit for our date before our finals exams and presentations.

At first glance, Tambai Alley doesn’t look much to any passerby during day time as the place blends around its surroundings. At night however, it figuratively puts on its lipstick and comes to life. It is well lit and even has makeshift counters and stools by the walkway. Tambai Alley has three dining spots within. The innermost dining area is EBI 10, at the middle one is Wantusawa, and at the front is Tambai. At the top of the house is an intimate bar named Kampai,  but since we do not drink we had to skip this last place.

 

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We started our night adventure here by dining at EBI 10 first and worked our way outwards. I selected a piece of small Ebi Tempura and an order of Scallop Popcorn with some rice, while Kat decided to test their mettle with some Gyoza and rice.

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While waiting for our food, I glanced around and found the place lively with Japanese-themed murals on the wall, evoking the feel of a cozy ramen and sushi spot.

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Small Ebi Tempura and Scallop Popcorn

If someone were to ask me about my thoughts on 55 pesos on ebi tempura, I normally look at the person in disbelief. In this case, I simply ate my words because the ebi tempura here was a treat. Each bite was crunchy, the dipping sauce was served hot and complemented the tempura perfectly. The rice complemented the other two wonderfully as well. However, I’m not a fan of the scallop popcorn as it was too rubbery for me.

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Gyoza

The gyoza had just the right balance of natural flavors, all enclosed in perfectly cooked wrappers. They were not too crunchy (a sign of being overcooked) or soggy (a sign of being left out too long). These dumplings plus rice were already enough for an early dinner.

Stepping outside, we were again greeted by the neon blue light of an open oyster shell at Wantusawa which caught our attention a little earlier in the evening. The place was set up as a bar, with chalkboard writings of their menu filling the empty space of the walls. Coupled with the dim lighting, one would find the place perfect for unwinding after a long day at work.

The thing that sets Wantusawa apart from most bars in the area is the fresh oysters from Aklan. They serve these oysters fresh, baked, and even as a ceviche. Aside from this, Wantusawa also has other selections like spicy scallop and crab fat pasta and grilled prawn laksa, along with the typical hard liquor, beer, and wine.

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The fiery ceviche

In my haste, I chose the ceviche without asking them to cut back on the heat. Because of this, I unfortunately wasn’t able to enjoy the other ingredients aside from the oysters. That one was a classic case of mea maxima culpa on my part.

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To make up for this, I also ordered a freshly-shucked oyster, served with kalamansi juice and hot sauce. A quick squeeze of the kalamansi and that oyster went down smoothly on my palate from the shell.

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Kat wanted to try the Hiyayako “Cold Tofu” Salad. Much to her delight, this was topped with bonito flakes and drizzled generously with a sweet sauce. It was just the perfect dish to clean the palate after the hearty meal from next door.

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We ended our night at Tambai, Tambai Alley’s take on a yakitori spot. By the way it’s set up, one would eat by the tables and chairs on the pedestrian walkway after ordering some booze, yakitori sticks, and even merchandise at the nearby hole in the wall.

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The Tambai haul

This time around, I ordered a stick of Quail Egg wrapped in Bacon yakitori and US Beef Isaw (intestine) along with a small bowl of their take on Japanese rice (typical fluffy rice with a dash of those instant rice toppings). Kat wanted some cold soba and Japanese Sausage yakitori.

While the Quail Egg and Bacon was a pleasant experience on my palate combined with their fluffy rice, I’m not a fan of their iteration of isaw and peanut sauce put together in one plate.

The soba was rather limp, and the sauce needed a little more flavor. The Japanese sausages though were a treat, with a mild spiciness like no other. These would have been great with a cold drink to wash them all down.

To sum it up, our triple header adventure at Tambai Alley left our tummies full and we had a fun time together with one less item on our bucket list.

 

Food Score: 3.5/5: Even with some stars of the show, the place really is meant as a casual drinking spot with friends than a dining place.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The place here is really something special, from casual with Tambai, private with EBI 10, and chill with Wantusawa.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers here were attentive and our food came in rather quickly. Overall, these are all good places to unwind, even on a warm summer night.

GERD Score: 3/5: I find the places slightly too limited for people with heartburn / GERD, aside from your typical salad and some exceptions.

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: While some ingredients here may be highly seasoned, there are enough fresh and unseasoned selections for finicky diners. Alcohol though is a main attraction of the alley, and there’s little in the way of non-alcoholic beverages and mixes to quench one’s thirst.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: For those with health conditions like ours, we highly recommend the place for a light snack, with several friends who can imbibe to unwind after a long day at work. But if you’re looking for a meal, there are some options which you can still enjoy here, though not many.

Morganfield’s

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It was a idyllic sunday afternoon and Team Glasses Food Blog wanted to try something new at Mall of Asia, just before the Ed Sheeran concert. In the midst of the groups of people moving to and fro, we saw Morganfield’s and thought, ‘why not give this a shot?’

Stepping inside, the place is reminiscent of a pub by the sea with its wooden chairs and tables, and dim lighting for the mood. These makes the place a good place to hang out with friends for a drink (if we could still drink in the first place).

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Bacon-wrapped meatballs

To whet our appetites (and for our bacon cravings), we started our meal with some bacon-wrapped meatballs. The meat was well seasoned and the bacon added a layer of saltiness.

For our late lunch, I ordered the Seafood Basket and Kat had the Bacon and Egg Aglio Olio, and we had a glass of Ginger Pop each to wash it all down.

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Seafood Basket

The Seafood Basket consists of beer-battered shrimp, fish, and calamari with a bed of french fries, tartar sauce, and coleslaw on the side. Personally, I would have liked a wee bit more pepper or paprika on the batter, but it was alright in itself. The shrimp and calamari are cooked well but the fish wasn’t as impressive. In my opinion it’s better as a snack with four or more people than an actual meal for one.

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Bacon and Egg Aglio Olio

The Bacon and Egg Aglio Olio was generously flavored with toasted garlic, with a little zing from some chili flakes. The egg was a bit too well cooked for our tastes though, and we would have preferred it a bit runny.

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Ginger Pops

The Ginger Pop is a nice balance to clean the palate with the mint subtly toning down the sharpness of the ginger, and the sweetness of the honey and brown sugar mix.

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Just before we left, the scent of their ribs tickled our senses. We dare say that the Carnivore is worth a try sometime, from the Home of the Sticky Bones.

Food Score: 4/5: The meals we had here at Morganfield’s are great for filling up our stomachs for the long night ahead, without making it feel like a chore.

Ambiance Score 4/5: Its overall look from the wooden furniture and walls, hues, and decor gives the place a cozy and warm feel to it, a place to unwind from the daily stress in a casual environment.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers we have are attentive and the food arrived at the right time and temperatures, a sign of a freshly prepared meal.

GERD Score: 3/5. Unfortunately for people with GERD, unless you have company and try their less fried meals, there are barely any options here that one can enjoy by their lonesome, or even in a group.

Neurodivergent Score: 3/5 : Oily options, grilled sausages, and full on fat make for comfort food, but not for a happy brain. This is just the sort of thing to have after a hangover, not to focus! That being said, there are plenty of fruit juices and non-alcoholic options such as the Ginger Pop that are great for health-conscious neurodivergents.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5. Weighing everything, the place is great for a casual meal for those that don’t have health conditions to worry about. However, for one that deals with neurodivergence or heartburn, the place has fewer options to offer.

Morganfield's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pi Breakfast & Pies

Before we started with my enrollment for the second semester, we decided to go with Kat’s suggestion of starting the day at a place called Pi Breakfast & Pies. After all, it was going to be a long day out and we needed something heartier than the usual Maginhawa Street fare.

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Located at Malingap Street, Pi Breakfast & Pies had the relaxed vibe to it, which allowed us to just kick back and enjoy a casual meal. The repurposed chairs and tables was also a nice touch to the place being perfect for spending time with friends.

For this adventure, I took on Pi Breakfast & Pies’ interpretation on the classic Longsilog, while Kat went for a Bacon Mac & Cheese.

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Longsilog

Their Longsilog was definitely as hearty as it appeared to be. Their longanisa (Pork sausage) packed a combination of flavors reminiscent of the well-known longanisas from Vigan, Lucban, and Cebu. The sinangag (garlic fried rice) was cooked to the right consistency, not being too garlicky, bland, or oily for my tastes. And surprisingly, the dish had a slice of salted duck egg and soft boiled egg (egg being itlog in Filipino, hence the name Longsilog), compared to the usual sunny side up or scrambled eggs. When mixed together with some pickled papaya (atchara), it summed up what a quality Filipino breakfast should be. It was hearty, filling, and gets one pumped up for the challenges of the day.

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Bacon Mac and Cheese

The Bacon Mac and Cheese was topped with a coddled egg, which added some richness to the dish’s mild cream sauce. Although we would have liked a sharper flavor to the cheese in this dish, we realized that this mac and cheese had a light quality that made it great for a breakfast as opposed to a lunch or dinner entree.

And to top off our brunch, both of us also had a decent cup of hot chocolate made out of tablea chocolate. It was certainly a good brunch for Team Glasses Food Blog.

Food Score: 4/5: The flavors and the preparation for our meals are spot on and quite satisfying to say the least.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: Aside from reusing tables and chairs, the ambient lighting and subtle black hues evoke a sense that one’s dining in a fancier place without the need to be overly formal.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers here are attentive, immediately catering to our needs and orders, and letting us know if there are some changes that we needed to know with our food.

GERD Score: 3.5/5: An unfortunate fact is that, while there are some options within the menu that should be alright for someone dealing with heartburn, it is too few. One way of countering this is to have someone share a meal with you, especially when food volume is a lingering concern. And a perk they also have is the fact that they list down the ingredients they use in all the items within the menu.

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: Some of the dishes use processed meats or other foods loaded with additives. There are not many sugar-free or reduced sugar options in both the entrees and beverages menu.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Even with some of our observations and concerns, Pi Breakfast & Pies is still a good place to dine with friends. And for those with health concerns, some precautions are necessary, but won’t ruin your time here.

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

Le Petit Souffle

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French and Japanese fusion has been something not unheard of. What comes to mind for me when this type of fusion is mentioned are the ending scenes of the Japanese movie “Tampopo”, replete with mouthwatering ramen. But as Kat has pointed out on more than one occasions, Le Petit Souffle takes fusion to another level. And on another level it sure was.

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Furikake Pomme Frites

For our date and de-stressing session, we started out with an appetizer, which was the Furikake Pomme Frites. When it arrived, the imagery of a pile of shoestring potatoes was a long step up from that of canned shoestring snacks. The texture was crunchy yet light on the taste buds. We managed to catch the natural flavor of the potatoes as well as the combination of nori, sesame seeds, and other seasonings they’ve mixed in, without the typical oiliness one usually expects from fried appetizer.

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Carbonara Souffle

For our main course, Kat picked the Carbonara Souffle. And it was a treat to be had aesthetically with the egg on top like a cloud ready to be mixed in with the firm pasta, crisp bacon, and grated parmesan. And once mixed together, it transcended all our expectations because the creaminess of the carbonara sauce wasn’t overpowering. The pasta created a platform for each ingredient to shine through.

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Japanese Beef Curry Souffle

I, on the other hand, took on the Japanese Beef Curry Souffle. I honestly did not expect myself facing a meal that’s good for two people. At the same time, it was just as inviting to the eyes as to the tastebuds. The fluffy texture of the scrambled egg complemented well the rice and curry underneath it. The beef was thinly cut into strips that absorbed the flavor of the curry, though I felt that the texture would have been better with the meat cut into cubes.

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Valrhona Guanaja Chocolate Souffle

As we were in dire need of stress relief after the rigors of graduate school, we immediately picked to our old stress relief motto of ‘Get chocolate when stressed’.  The one thing that would fit the bill was the luscious Valrhona Guanaja Chocolate Souffle. The dark chocolate caressed our taste buds, while the souffle itself achieved a balance of moist and firm  textures in the same bite. It was the ideal decadent ending to our meal.

After our meal, we took time to glance around the place, which evoked the feel of being in an Parisian garden cafe., with a touch of adorably barmy courtesy the rolling pins hanging out among the leaves and branches. This odd and welcoming charm cinched the deal for us.

Simply put, this was a dinner date to remember.

Food Score:5/5. Each item of the menu here is well thought of and combines well with each other. But we personally like the Carbonara Souffle because it is a class of its own, and the Valrhona Guanaja Chocolate Souffle is sublime.

Ambiance / Service Score: 5/5. The entire restaurant gives of the vibe of being in a chic Parisian garden, which makes it a calming and comforting place to dine in. Their servers are also on top of our dining experience, informing us when the souffles will be ready and even assisted us to have the chocolate souffle come out 25 minutes after our main meals come in.

GERD Score: 3.5/5. My only problem with the menu is that since it is French-inspired is that there are plenty of dairy and eggs, which doesn’t help my heartburn. But thankfully they have plenty of options in their menu that can cater to most diets.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. Hooray for well sourced ingredients, and rich dishes that do not rely on preservatives. Although coffee is a must-have at Le Petit Souffle, the teas and juices are also very much recommended.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. All things considered, it was an amazing experience dining in Le Petit Souffle’s way of doing Japanese-French fusion cuisine. And we recommend that it should be experienced at least once by any casual gourmet here in the Metro.

Le Petit Souffle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wild Ginger

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During one of our recent dinner trips, we initially thought about having big and juicy burgers. After a bit of consideration we opted to dine at Wild Ginger, a place that offers something closer to our tastebuds, which is Southeast Asian and South Asian cuisine.

Upon stepping inside, we found that the restaurant has a homey dining room feel to it. With subtle walls, various paintings, comfortable atmosphere and knick knacks adorning the interior, Wild Ginger is perfect for dining in with company or not, particularly for quiet and casual dates.

Their menu encompasses a selection of Southeast Asian entrees such as curries and rice toppings, as well as street food favorites such as Banh Mi, and Adobo Flakes Sandwich. We decided to try out two full on meals, namely the Vegetable Biryani and Indian Butter Chicken.

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Vegetable Biryani

The Vegetable Biryani was superb, with the balance of flavors and textures all encompassed within this one dish of biryani rice with a mix of carrots, peas, potatoes, lentils and other veggies. The crunch from the roasted garlic and peanuts blended in perfectly with the parsley and melded together with the biryani.

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Indian Butter Chicken

In the case of the Indian Butter Chicken, the heat from the spices of the curry was subtly cooled down by the butter without making it seem too creamy for its own good. The chunks of chicken were perfectly seasoned from within, which was enhanced by the curry. The papadom that accompanied it was just the right amount of crisp and ability to hold the curry itself. The only gripe we had was that there was not enough papadom to do justice to the sauce. We actually ordered an extra cup of rice when there was still some curry left.

During our meal here, we also found out that Wild Ginger is involved with Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization that’s committed to ending world hunger. And their restaurant is listed as a Restaurant Against Hunger, wherein proceeds from certain dishes are donated to food aid and assistance efforts especially for refugees. Not only is this restaurant a treat for the tastebuds and the stomach, but it is also doing its part to feed the world.

Food Score: 5/5. Simply put, the food at Wild Ginger is sublime. Each dish is well executed and thought out from the textures to the flavors. This is a good pick for diners still needing initiation into the nuances of Southeast Asian cuisines, as well as culinary diehards.

Ambiance / Service Score: 4.5/5. The place gives a calming home vibe to it, which lends itself to a quaint dining experience. And their servers are attentive to our needs throughout our meal here.

GERD Score: 4/5. The good thing about Wild Ginger is their selection that leaves a lot of options for people who have various triggers on their heartburn.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. Hooray for freshly cooked home-style meals with quality ingredients! The food here utilizes all natural flavorings without resorting to powdered or artificial seasonings. The non-alcoholic drinks selection is also a boon.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. Considering all factors, Wild Ginger is lovely restaurant to go be it for lunch or dinner, even with people with existing health concerns to consider.

Wild Ginger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato