Healthy food for the Filipino Palate: Satinka Naturals

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As a fact of life here in the Philippines, and an inherent irony, is that a good portion of Filipinos don’t consider incorporating vegetables into their diet. Don’t believe me? What are we most known for in terms of food? Some examples are Lechon, Crispy Pata, Sisig, Adobo, and the list piles on and on. Or if one walks to a roadside eatery, we add in pork, beef, or shrimp into the few vegetable viands.

Thankfully there are some exceptions and one of them is Satinka Naturals.

It all started when Kat asked me to surprise her with our dinner pick and the place caught my eye while searching one. Satinka Naturals is found by the corner of Kamagong and Chino Roces / Pasong Tamo in Makati, as both a place to eat, and a place to get organic products for many needs.

The interior reminds one of a rustic home, a mismatched but well-kept and loved Filipino-Spanish home, but with some modern sensibilities to the place. In a word, the place is cosy.

We started our dinner with some Yoga Tea, a mixture of ginger root, cardamom, black pepper, and cloves. While unusual to the Filipino palate, taking a sip of this tea with honey was a delightful experience, especially for me with my discovered preference for adding spices. This also gave me an idea on what to do with the cardamom pods I brought home from Qatar.

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Greek Platter

For the main dinner itself, I ordered a Greek platter and Kat had the Vegan platter. The Greek platter had chicken strips marinated with oregano, paprika and caraway seeds, giving each strip a vibrant flavour with every bite. The spiced beef in tomato sauce and feta cheese helped balance the meal with its bits of acidity from the tomatoes. The accompanying salad and shredded cucumber, as well as the red rice knit these two meat dishes together, creating a memorable meal hands down.

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Vegan Platter

The vegan platter consisted of two types of ‘meatballs’ made with beetroot, carrot, and a mix of other veggies, a marinara dipping sauce, raw ‘zuchinni pasta’ and a garden salad. Now whoever said that vegetables weren’t filling has certainly not encountered this rich meal. The vegan balls were heavy and savory, thus necessitating the other greens to cleanse one’s palate. This meal may be a bit overwhelming for those not used to vegan meals, but it is certainly worth a try.

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Sagada Yogurt with Honey

We ended our night with a small bowl of Sagada yogurt with honey. It was a solid dessert after our hearty dinner here at Satinka Naturals. But if we were to do it again, we would have ordered the pot of tea after the meal to make it an absolutely perfect end to the night.

Food Score: 5/5. Aside from minor nitpicks here and there, we enjoyed the food not only through its taste alone, but also from preparation and presentation to the organic ingredients of our meal. There is a wide selection of entrees and group platters to choose from, all of which use healthy and fresh ingredients. The beverages section can boast of having Sagada Coffee, several types of tea, and craft beer all available. One must never be shy to order.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5. Throughout our stay, it was surprisingly quiet and the hustle and bustle of the outside world didn’t get inside at all. At the same time, their décor, tables, and cushions speaks well of not only their tastes, but also become a place to rest our minds after a long trip around the Metro. Their service is not only attentive, but also quick on their feet in handling anything we needed.

GERD Score: 4.5/5. Surprisingly, even with the large portion and serving, the food here doesn’t trigger my burping at all, which is remarkable in itself. Also, the food is spiced just the right amount, so as not to make it too spicy for people with heartburn / GERD. While there is some alcohol in the vicinity, there’s plenty of beverage options as well.

Epilepsy Score: 5/5. No MSG and artificial flavors! This is cause enough to celebrate. And the vegan meals have no gluten, thus making this a bonus for people sensitive to this substance. The non-caffeinated teas and fresh fruit shakes are excellent too for diners with restrictions due to either their seizures or their medication

Team Glasses Score: 5/5. Our entire dinner here was a great experience because they create great food for diners with health concerns like us.

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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.