Toast Box: a place for all hours

The very mention of ‘toast’ often brings to mind images of golden brown bread served with jam, eggs and bacon, and perhaps with a cup of coffee on the side. It is just as well that there is a restaurant chain in Metro Manila that is bringing a new face to this take on sliced bread. Welcome to none other than Toast Box.

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We visited the Toast Box in Greenbelt just before the dinner rush, initially intent on grabbing a light early dinner. However, after perusing the delectable selection of toast box combinations as well as the sandwich and entrée selections, our appetites were whetted enough for us to choose something more substantial. Kat picked a Hainanese quarter chicken served with rice, soup, and a glass of cold barley, while Lee chose the sandwich version of this chicken dish.

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The Hainanese chicken with rice was savory, with the chicken’s flavors mingling pleasantly with the light sauce. This particular meal was delicate on the tongue, and filling enough for an early supper. The best part though was the chilled barley drink, which reminded us of a cooler, chewier version of pinipig (a toasted rice delicacy). It was perfect for cleansing the palate, leaving the diner ready for more.

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The Hainanese chicken sandwich on the other hand is what every sandwich lover should try at least once in their lives. The chicken was firm and savory, the tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumber were crisp and fresh, and the thick toast held the juices better than what one would normally expect. We dare say that it’s perfect for the start of the day, a heavy afternoon snack, or a light dinner. The black tea that accompanied it was a bit too much on the strong side, unfortunately.

Although Toast Box markets itself as an ‘all day breakfast’ establishment, our experience showed us that this is a restaurant for all hours: breakfast, brunch, lunch, snacktime, and all the way to dinner. This is definitely a place to consider for diners who don’t want to go all out on either stomach capacity or budget, but who could definitely use a filling, satisfying meal.

The Food Score: 4/5: The toast selections fit the bill for a light yet classy breakfast, something that is a respite from many of the heavier breakfast selections in other restaurants. However the entrée selections may not be as friendly for diners allergic to seafoods; since the entrées are very South Asian and Southeast Asian inspired, foodstuffs like bagoong feature in these dishes.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: The ambiance is chic and calm, perfect for sipping a cup of coffee alone or having a quiet meeting. The décor is eclectic yet not jarring, adding more to the inviting atmosphere of the place.

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GERD Score: 4/5: The selection of the place’s menu strikes a good balance for those that love the cafe experience with coffee and tea, and people who are health conscious and looking for good options here and there. At the same time, the food portions are just right as long as one remembers the mantra to chew their food slowly.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5: Although the toast box selections come with coffee or tea, there is a good selection of juices and drinks to accompany one’s meal. Likewise, though luncheon meat and other preserved foods feature in some of the entrees, there are other dishes available for discerning diners.
Team Glasses Score: 4/5: This place is proof for us that breakfast is an anytime, anywhere affair. We definitely recommend this place for all hours and all appetites.

Toast Box 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