CORNER TREE CAFE, BEL-AIR, MAKATI (Jupiter Street)
Everything is either vegetarian or vegan, so you don't have to bother asking about the stock used in soup or fish sauce in stir fried vegetables. The specials board is always a treat and changes regular, while the salads are more than just an afterthought and the desserts are known for being downright decadent.
I opt to start out with a Silician Tomato Soup (90 PHP), which is without a doubt the best soup I have ever tasted in my life. Whole wheat bread is added to the soup, which adds texture and a depth of flavor. The vegan option contains no cream, but my dining companion opts for the vegetarian choice and informs me the result is fantastic.
Finally there is somewhere we can all go to enjoy a meat-free menu in Metro Manila =)
This simple and understated cafe in Makati city, has a definite European vibe. The waiting lounge for takeaway orders highlights the laid-back charm of the place, with comfy couches and magazines making you feel like you're at a friend's house. The clientele is, a 50/50 mix of Filipinos and Westerners, but more importantly - the food is delicious.
Although hard to pin down exactly, one would feel comfortable guessing that the cuisine is Mediterranean inspired, with more than a little Middle Eastern Fusion thrown in for good measure. It's all prepared fresh and the ingredients are only pure vegetables - no mock meat. The best sellers are the Baked Tofu Walnut Burger (290 PHP) that will make you believe in veggie burgers, and the oozing cheesy goodness of the Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna (three different cheese are used).
The juicy roma tomatoes mix well with basil leaves and the soup leaves me more than satisfied, once again. I order some homemade sourdough rye to mop up the remnants of my soup bowl, but as the bread is so flaky and crusty, it's full of flavor itself and perfectly complimented by olive oil.
For a main course, I decide to have the veggie burger for the umpteenth time as the staggering amount of choice on offer (something rare for vegetarians) can be somewhat bewildering. I decline cheese on top, but decide to splurge on an optional addition of crispy fried onions. The burger holds together perfectly well and each bite is perfectly balanced.
I always tell myself that I'll try something different each time I go to the same restaurant, but find myself defenseless against this burger. I decide to pig out instead and order an extra dish.
I usually expect hummus outside of a strictly Middle Eastern restaurant to be lousy, but this proves to be the exception. The White Bean Hummus has a lemony tang that is delicious rather than sour, and by excluding the chickpea and using borlotti beans instead - the result is a softer texture and creamier hummus. A standout in an already star studded field!
Althan, senior staff member, had a few thoughts on what makes Corner Tree Cafe stand out.
"We use only vegetables. We don't use old recipes with meat-free substitutions - that's boring," he says.
It works too. This hidden gem of a restaurant, does steady business in a meat lover's environment, winning awards along the way. In 2010, it was nominated for 'Best Specialty Restaurant' in Manila, and was added to the Miele Guide, which lists Asia's finest restaurants. It also made PETA Asia's list of the best vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines, ranking third.
Open for two years now and going storng, manager, Chiqui Mabanta, has thoughts of expansion for the future, with plans for a branch in Quezon City to be opened within the year. Check it out now before it becomes a household name, just don't drop by on Monday - as that's the only day it shuts.