A quaint experience at Happy Garden Cafe

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On another solo adventure, I decided to walk the quieter streets of Jupiter. Moving past Makati avenue, amidst the unlit streets, I found myself seeing a garden of sorts and a sign that says ‘Happy Garden Cafe’. Stepping inside, it’s like a rustic white patio with mismatched tables and chairs, giving the feel of dining just by your own garden.

Although I was the only patron there for a Saturday dinner at the time, the place was lively because the staff were hard at work preparing for someone’s birthday party the next day.

The menu is varied with usual fares but with cheerful names like Delightful for how you like your eggs done in the French Omelet sets, to Transformed for chorizo and egg pizza. For my dinner however, I went with Mucho which consists of a pompano fillet with shiitake and caper sauce, along with some steamed vegetables and cauliflower rice (an upgrade from the rice pilaf that accompanies this dish).

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Mucho

Personally I’ve never tried cauliflower rice, which I have come to enjoy with its texture and different flavors melding together. And the steamed carrots and broccoli helps balance the palate. However, the main star of the dish, which is the fish, is lackluster. Yes, it was cooked with the right amount of juiciness and texture to make it a somewhat enjoyable meal. But, when the caper is the only thing one can taste distinctly, perhaps some adjustments can be made with how the fish is seasoned.

For anybody with green thumbs, they also have some plants on sale outside that’s good for any garden. In summary, I’m ambivalent about my meal here at Happy Garden Cafe, but there’s definitely room for improvement food-wise. It’s a good place to bring the barkada in for a simple lunch or dinner away from the hustle and bustle of Makati avenue or the central business district.

Food Score: 3/5. In some ways, there were upsides and downsides to the meal I had, but objectively, it was well-created and I did somewhat enjoyed the meal. However, it has to be said that flavor is important too and I found that part to be lackluster.

Ambiance / Service Score: 4/5. The service was more or less attentive to my needs and the place had a casual dining feel to it, which should be better for the mornings and with a group of people with you.

GERD Score: 4/5. An upside is that there are plenty of options for anyone dealing with heartburn with their different menu items. And my Mucho meal was rather nice and filling without triggering burping episodes.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. Like many establishments of its kind, this cafe uses natural methods and seasonings for its dishes, thus making them friendlier for diners who may be triggered by preservatives. As bland as the dishes may seem, at least they are safe to eat.

Team Glasses Food Score: 4/5. Even with its miscues in terms of flavor, Happy Garden Cafe is still a place one can consider when in the Jupiter area and looking for a filling plate of healthy food that suits our respective conditions.

Happy Garden Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Pho Bac (the Team Glasses Sick Day Special)

There are some days that can only be cured by a bowl of soup, particularly one that is a step above instant chicken noodles. We happened to have one of those off days recently thanks to a sudden shift in the weather, but fortunately, we found ourselves within walking distance of Pho Bac, another Vietnamese restaurant that serves just what the doctor ordered.

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Pho refers to a number of Vietnamese noodle soup recipes, usually made with a mix of rice noodles, meat, and an assortment of herbs. The restaurant Pho Bac serves up chicken, beef, and seafood soups, as well as variations such as pho with egg noodles, or with mixed seafood. Other dishes available here include salad noodles, and house specialties such as Vietnamese crepe and chao tom (shrimp on cane with rice wrapper).

Since Lee and I were feeling under the weather, we chose to have two different bowls of pho: mi ga or chicken pho with egg noodles, and bun ca or pho with fish and rice noodles.  Both orders of pho were served with small dishes of bean sprouts and basil leaves that we could add to our soups according to our respective tastes. No other strong spices or condiments were necessary for our meal.

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In my past experiences eating chicken pho, I have found that much of the flavour comes from the spices in the broth. However Pho Bac’s mi ga also derives its taste from the egg noodles themselves, which lend a certain heartiness to an otherwise mild dish. In contrast, the bun ca also features small cubes of tofu and a hint of chili, giving a little extra kick to the soup. These interesting soup dishes were not only tasty but also very filling. In fact I daresay that the pho in this restaurant is large enough to serve as an afternoon snack for two or three.

In some ways, food is medicine in itself, if only for its giving the body what it needs to boost its natural immune defences. And while pho is definitely not a cure-all, it does fit the bill for those ‘off’ days when a little warm soup is all that one needs to get back in fighting form. Fortunately Pho Bac is found at a number of locations, ready to serve the hungry, peckish, or peaky diner needing that extra bit of heartiness to get on.

The Food Score:  4/5. For some diners, the pho may be too mild in flavour; in fact we could hardly taste the spice in the bun ca. However on the whole,  one definitely gets value for one’s money in this restaurant. This is where one can find comfort food without breaking the bank.

Ambiance/Service Score:   4/5. The particular branch we were at was rather cramped, and difficult for diners to move around in. However the staff was helpful and attentive, and the food was served as promptly as possible.

GERD Score: 4/5. Considering that even the globules of spice in the pho didn’t set me off that much, it’s definitely heartburn friendly to an extent. But it has to be said that considering the size of the pho itself, it’s not meant for a single person with GERD. Only upside to that is, more to share.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5. The trouble with soup in general is that one isn’t always sure what goes in the stock. So sensitive diners may need to pass on the pho, or at least inquire what ingredients were used. Herbs and spices may not agree with some people or interfere with their medications, so it’s also best to inquire about these before ordering.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. If one is looking for soul food on a bad day, this is worth a visit. After all, good food in itself is therapeutic, and a good bowl of pho from here fits the bill.

Pho Bac Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Corner Tree Cafe Vegetarian Food

Amid all the brightly colored establishments on Jupiter Street, one particular restaurant that has caught my attention for some time is a quiet, homey looking nook on the corner of Jupiter and Saturn Streets.  It’s this unassuming facade, as well as a recommendation from a relative, that brought us to the Corner Tree Cafe Vegetarian Food—and one of the best dining experiences that Team Glasses has had so far.

We arrived here just past 6:30pm, eager to avoid the dinner rush. Right away we felt welcome in this cozy cafe, which was lit warmly with candles and old-fashioned lanterns on the tables and the counter.  Old pictures and simple prints added to the establishment’s intimate ambiance. It was enough to have us deciding to have a full course meal there, instead of just ordering one or two entrees and heading elsewhere for dessert.

For starters, we had Spanokopitas, a Greek appetizer consisting of spinach in filo pastry, served with a mint yogurt dip. This dish was served to us still warm, allowing us to appreciate the subtle flavour of the spinach combined with the mild tartness of the mint yogurt dip. It was exactly what we needed to whet our appetites in preparation for the entrees.

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Lee decided to try the Veg Bibimbap, which consisted of a variety of vegetables and mushrooms, served with red rice and a small saucer of kimchi. Although Lee had to remove some of the spicy bean paste that served as seasoning for this dish, we found that this did not detract too much from the taste of the bibimbap as a whole. All in all, this dish was very filling, leaving only a slight tingling on the tastebuds as opposed to a searing spiciness in the throat.

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I chose the North African Vegetable Stew, which was a mix of vegetables cooked in Moroccan spices, served over either red rice or couscous. For adventure’s sake I chose couscous, and I am happy to say that I did not regret this. The couscous was light on the palate yet very filling. As for the vegetables, they were served still warm and crisp, and nowhere near limp or soggy. Although I was warned that this dish contained capsicum, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the hotness of this dish was not overwhelming, but just enough to give some more kick to the food’s light flavours. There was only one thing wrong with this dish: there wasn’t enough of it!

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For dessert we had the Chocolate Mousse with Dark Toblerone. I was half expecting a very thick and rich concoction, but I was delighted to be greeted with a light, delicately flavoured confection topped with almonds. The mousse had just the right amount of sweetness to make its chocolate flavour more appealing even for diners who are not into dark chocolate. This, as well as a pot of hot tea, was the perfect conclusion to our already very filling and satisfying meal.

The Corner Tree Cafe Vegetarian Food may be considered as one of the more hidden gems on Jupiter Street, but it is definitely one worth a visit…or maybe two or more. It’s proof that eating healthy and vegetarian can be fun and delicious, something worthy of gourmets and gourmands alike.

The Food Score:  5/5. The menu is proof that vegetarian food is far more than salad: everything from burgers to Filipino favourites such as adobo and sinigang can be found here.  There are also weekly specials (written on a blackboard) that offer diners new dishes in addition to the already expansive selection here. The quality of the food is excellent and the dishes are reasonably priced. There are even potluck options for those who wish to order in bulk to bring some of this  goodness to events.

Ambiance/Service Score:   5/5. The cafe allows for an intimate dining experience; soft lighting, cozy arrangements of the tables, and relaxing music all add to this atmosphere. The menu here is printed in a very user friendly manner, showing which dishes are gluten free, or which have capsicum. A small glossary also accompanies the menu. The staff members are very welcoming and are more than happy to provide clarifications about the menu

GERD Score: 5/5. Because of the chili-induced heat for that Bimbimbap and other meals, the café / restaurant elaborates and puts out warnings for their diners if a certain dish has capsicum or spices. And even if you can’t get a certain dish, there’s plenty of delectable options still. Other than that, I definitely recommend the place, even if you’re dealing with heartburn.

Epilepsy Score:  5/5.  Finally we found a place that explains the ingredients as well as tries its best to source food from organic sources. Although this is a cafe, there is a wide selection of non caffeinated drinks such as juices and even lassi (a yogurt drink) for diners who are sensitive to caffeine.
Team Glasses Score: 5/5. Yes, we will definitely be back for more. It  is not often we get to dine at a place wherein the food is just as welcoming and healthy as the ambiance, and we consider the Corner Tree Cafe Vegetarian Food as one of those that hit the spot.

Corner Tree Cafe Vegetarian Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato