Lately I’ve been feeling more adventurous and more exploratory. Blame it on my new found freedom but I really wanted to try as many things as I can now that I have time in my hands. And so, top of my list is to collate as many unique epicurean experiences as possible. I cannot claim to be a food blogger – maybe not yet – but I can most certainly review food and definitely be on a hunt for the most unique experience I can possibly dream of.
Being adventurous, I decided to try out Wabi Sabi after reading about it from two food guides. I searched the net further to find out what it’s about and came across famous bloggers who attested to its taste. And so together with friends, I decided to investigate.
The evening we were about to try out Wabi Sabi proved to be a dreary rainy one. We were close to backing out but I persisted for the sake of trying out something new.
Wabi Sabi is located in The Collective along Maluggay Street in Makati. At first, I thought The Collective was your usual, typical mall. I was badly mistaken. Coming from Buendia cor. Osmena Hwy, I walked to Maluggay and was glad that I easily found The Collective. Upon reaching the building, I harbored second thoughts. I was the first of our party to arrive and I didn’t know if I was in the right place. It looked like an abandoned warehouse from the front. There were several food joints in front but none of them was Wabi Sabi.
I dared ventured in. Inside were walls covered with graffiti – artistic graffiti that is but to my world, it was scary graffiti. Obviously, it was a hipster – artist place and there was even a newly opened gallery. I wasn’t entirely sure if I’ve come to the right place so I asked someone if they knew where Wabi Sabi is. I asked one of the ladies who appeared to work in one of the food joints and she was quite unsure what I was asking. She merely pointed out that I could try exploring deeper into the building for there are other food joints inside.
I took her advice albeit cautiously and all along, as I explored the narrow corridors whose walls all contained graffiti, I felt like anytime soon I will be stabbed or mugged. It was how I would picture out the Bronx in New York.
Thankfully enough that building wasn’t really that big (or deep) and upon two turns I saw Wabi Sabi. I felt relieved. It was just like Anton Diaz’s (of Our Awesome Planet) description – the place looked like a Kung Fu Noodle House. The place is really small and when I arrived there were two big groups occupying almost the entire restaurant. So, having gained a new found bravado, I ventured to explore the building deeper, only to find out it was actually small, and resolved to wait for my companions in the main hallway.
Surprising, all of us were scared and a bit skeptical when we entered into the building. I had a good laugh looking at their faces when they entered the building only to see hipsters, artists and graffiti – being scientists – we knew we were not in our turf.
So on to Wabi Sabi.
Sadly, the joint did not live up to my expectations. I expected a lot given that they have this concept of Ramen Padilla vs Fernando Pho Jr. Their specialty is noodles and they serve it two ways – Japanese ramen (choice of shoyu (P120) or miso (P130)) and Vietnamese pho (P105). We also tried to order their appetizers yet most that were written on the blackboard menu were no longer available. Most disappointing was that their specialty sample dish which allows you to go back for seconds was also not available. Apparently, it was just a promo 3 years ago and they just didn’t erase it from the menu blackboard.
So we basically ordered what was available. The gyoza (P55, 3pcs) which tasted like crab meat was pretty good. So was their Harumaki (P65, 4pcs) which had a seaweed taste probably due to the prominence of the dried seaweed. What we all love was the Bahn Mi (P150, 12”) which was a sub sandwich filled with pulled vegan pork, cucumber, carrots and some other veggies I can’t identify. It really tasted great and you wouldn’t realize you’re eating vegan meat!
For drinks we had two choices – a refreshing Lemongrass Iced Tea (P50) and the usual Thai Milk Tea (P60). For me the Lemongrass was better even if the lemongrass taste was too strong. It was not at all sweet also.
The main dish – the two noodle soup. I got to try the Shoyu Ramen and the Pho. The Shoyu Ramen to my taste was a bit bland. In fact we all agreed it was bland and we had to add some chili powder to heighten the taste. The meat – which was gluten of course – was average. I did not enjoy it actually so I switched with my sister who ordered Pho. The pho tasted strongly of cilantro and all the while I can imagine I was eating leaves. But I preferred it to the ramen because at least it had a strong taste to it. I also found it more filling.
So my verdict for the soup war – I go with Fernando Pho Jr.!
As for the entire place, it failed my expectations and my friends were generally not impressed. There were products we enjoyed but it won’t be enough for us to come back and relive the experience. We also surmised that since we were not vegetarians, we found the soups bland.
And so, in my quest to find out if I would ever be vegan – I’m sad to say my first attempt at vegan dining out in Makati was a flop.
The positive side to all this though was I got to try a new place and gain a completely different experience. Will I be back? In Wabi Sabi, perhaps but just to eat the B-my or the gyoza. In The Collective, perhaps to try Ritual, an organic store which sells vegan ice cream (P110 per scoop).
Will I continue exploring vegan places? Definitely! And not just vegan places but every hole-in-wall resto in Makati.
To order, you go to the bar and look at the menu on the blackboard. Then sit down, wait to be served and pay your bill afterwards.
The Bahn Mi or what was left of it
Gyoza – great taste really
The Ramen Padilla
The Fernando Pho Jr.
Wabi Sabi’s wall features the noodle wars. On one side Ramen Padilla’s fans. On the other Fernando Pho Jr.
An organic shop inside The Collective selling organic produce. They have vegan ice cream which I’d love to try some other day.
A heavily decorated wall in one of the corridors
People taking photo of the artwork on the wall
There is a courtyard of sorts in the middle which has no roof and was open to the elements. I guess this is used as a performing stage.
Another wall covered with art