Where to Go For Great Vegetarian Food in Manila
As the number of people turning towards a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle grows, so too have the choices of restaurants where they can indulge in this ever-evolving cuisine.
What's the difference between vegan and vegetarian food?
To be clear, vegan food is all plant-based, containing no animal products or ingredients derived from animals. Vegetarian food does not contain meat or fish but may contain dairy products like milk and cheese.
There was a time when vegetarian food was associated with being boring, flavorless, and “healthy.” But those days are long gone and thankfully we live in an age that celebrates but more importantly, respects consumers’ food preferences. It has become necessary for chefs and restaurant owners to be educated in vegetarian cuisine, and also to make an effort to include these in their repertoire of dishes.
Here’s a small taste of what’s on offer at these tried and tested restaurants that offer a mouth-watering array of vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
1. The Good Seed
Owner and general manager Denise Celdran has been serving her delicious vegetarian dishes since 2008 and the business has since expanded to include a food delivery service called Thrive, which targets different dietary preferences such as ketogenic vegetarian, meat-free, gluten-free and vegetarian, as well as frozen deli items for those who’d like to enjoy her dishes at home. Regulars at The Good Seed in Kapitolyo frequently order the hearty Mushroom Longganiza, made with Spanish paprika, shredded shiitake, lots of fresh garlic, chickpea and cornflour; Vegan Laksa made using fresh coconut milk and a freshly ground paste of herbs like turmeric, lemongrass and cilantro, with non-GMO tofu and shiitake mushrooms; and the Mushroom Sisig which has marinated oyster and shiitake mushrooms expertly flavored with black pepper, calamansi and soy sauce and a little bit of siling labuyo for that extra kick. At The Good Seed, absolutely no packaged seasonings, MSG, or flavor enhancers are used in any of their dishes.
The Good Seed is located at 3 Brixton St., Kapitolyo, Mandaluyong
2. Corner Tree Café
Around 2009, when offering vegetarian food was not as fashionable nor as widely accepted, owner Chiqui Syquia Mabanta says the reception the restaurant garnered back then was more than favorable. The restaurant attracted all sorts: yogis, sick patients, old people, young people, office people, students, businessmen, and women who lunch. She recalls a particularly touching moment when “an old woman gently held my hand and said, ‘Thank you.’” Mabanta says one bestseller regulars come back for time and again is the Arroz a la Cubana, a flavorful combination of minced tofu, tomatoes, green olives and raisins served with fried bananas, red rice and an optional fried egg. “One person said it's better than his grandmother's, while some can't believe that it's vegetarian. Many people ask how the dishes were made and tell us that when they try to make them at home, they aren’t the same.” Other must-try dishes are the wonderfully savory Bibimbap and the Vegetable Dumplings.
Corner Tree Café is located at 150 Jupiter St., Makati City and at 3/F Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, Makati
3. Kashmir Indian Restaurant
Vegetarian friends consistently mention Kashmir as one of their go-to places for satisfyingly delicious, vegetarian comfort food. Top choices are its ubiquitous Punjab Samosas, lovingly made parcels filled with carrots, potatoes, green peas, herbs and masala Star in every bite. There’s also the notable Palak Paneer, made with fresh cottage cheese swathed in a creamy, homemade spinach gravy and the Vegetable Shawarma, a mélange of fresh vegetables served in a shawarma wrap, dressed with a homemade garlic and chili sauce.
Kashmir Indian Restaurant is located at 816 A. Arnaiz Ave. San Lorenzo, Makati City and Kashmir Deli is at the San Antonio Plaza Arcade in Forbes Park, Makati City
4. Crosta Pizzeria
Located in a container-style food park in Poblacion, this little brick-oven pizzeria that distinctly uses only sourdough for its pizza crust has garnered a reputation for offering some of the best vegan pizza around. It uses well-known brands Beyond Meat for its patty and “sausage” preparations and In A Nutshell cashew-based mozzarella. Some of its bestselling pizza flavors are its uniquely star-shaped Vegan Stuffed with crust pockets stuffed with vegan smoked Gouda and vegan sausage topped with house-made Italian plum tomato sauce, cashew-based mozzarella and even more vegan sausage, the Meatless Lover has a homemade Italian tomato sauce base, cashew-based mozzarella, patty and sausage “meat,” red and green bell peppers and white onions and the Vegan Shroomed Out is a delicious medley of shiitake, portobello, button mushroom mix and garlic confit on a vegan cream base. Crosta Pizzeria also serves non-vegetarian pizza flavors, so there’s something for everyone.
Crosta Pizzeria is located at The Social on Ebro, 5770 Ebro Street, Brgy. Poblacion, Makati
5. Hummus Elijah
Lovers of the great plant-based protein source that is hummus head for Hummus Elijah, where they enjoy it paired with different ingredients. There is the most basic Hummus Elijah, Hummus with Mushrooms, with Falafel and Salad, with Egg and with Ful or Fava Beans. Chiqui Sy-Quia Mabanta of Corner Tree Café says she often orders the Sabich sandwich with fried eggplant, hummus, hard-boiled egg and salad in pita bread and their falafels; and owner Eli Lapid adds other popular dishes are the Shakshuka in Pan, Couscous with Vegetables and Baklava, for dessert.
Hummus Elijah outlets are located on the 2/F 7850 Makati Avenue, Makati and at the 5/F SM Aura Premier, BGC, Taguig.
6. Café Mediterranean
Although not a vegetarian restaurant by design, the vegetarian menu at Café Mediterranean is made up of dishes to please even the most discerning veggie palate. Start things off with its sampler plate, which is a selection of all-vegetarian Little Plates. Choose from a variety of appetizers like Moutabal, a smoked eggplant with tahini dip; Tzatziki, a creamy combination of cucumber, yoghurt, and garlic; Marinated Olives, Kalamata and other olives in extra virgin olive oil and herbs; Tabbouleh, nutty cracked wheat (Bulgur), tomatoes, and parsley; or Labneh, strained yoghurt with a cheese-like consistency. The Eggplant Parmigiana is made up of interspersed layers of tender eggplant flesh and creamy mozzarella cheese surrounded by homemade tomato sauce. Café Med’s Lentil Burger is a tasty vegetarian burger packed with protein, topped with crispy onion rings and yoghurt and served with fries.
Cafe Mediterranean is located at Podium Mall, Ortigas Center, Pasig; Power Plant Mall, Makati; and Estancia Mall, Capitol Commons, Meralco Avenue, Pasig
Cosmic Vegetarian’s stylish interiors make dining there a treat; but that’s not all they have to offer. Barely a year old, this café has been making waves among the veggie and non-veggie set, serving up dishes that amazingly taste so much like the real thing. Case in point are the “Beanuguan,” made with black beans, and the sisig, which diners swear even has the same chewy texture as the original version containing pigs’ cheeks. Lali Balagtas, general manager at Cosmic, shares, “Our bestseller is really our kare-kare.” Fresh vegetables are nestled in a creamy, savory peanut sauce with vegan “bagnet” slices, which are actually an ingenious creation made of soy protein and vegetable starch. Other popular menu items are the Vegan Spinach Lasagna featuring its own Special Vegan Bechamel sauce, Vegan Parmesan, and Rich tomato sauce layered with pasta, tofu and spinach and the Cosmic Mushroom Burger with a specially made mushroom burger patty, veggies and house made vegan garlic mayo in a bun.
Cosmic Vegan Restaurant & Cafe is located at 2/F 5057 P. Burgos Corner General Luna, Makati