Yes, delicious vegan food does exist in Manila.
I’ve thought about maybe eliminating meat from my diet, but I’ve never seriously considered it. I love salads as much as the next Sassy girl, of course, but a full day of nothing but veggies sounds, well…a little too light for my taste. Luckily, a trip to Green Bar resolved all my limited preconceptions of vegetarian diets, even going a step further by proving that veganism, the ultimate of vegetarian diets/ideologies, which excludes even animal by-products, can be incredibly filling, and doesn’t have to feel like deprivation in the least.
Green Bar is in a “pretty weird location,” admit sisters and co-owners Sarada and Jade Santos. It’s on the second floor of West of Ayala, a residential building about a block away from Makati Medical Center. It isn’t too hard to find, as long as you’re already looking for it.
As it happens, when Jade and Sarada first started here (after a previous venture in Alabang), they had intended to use the space as a base for deliveries. “But then people would come in, and ask where they could sit…They were taking it to the lobby, and eating there.” The sisters then decided to make a seating area on their own premises, and the result is a charming, cozy cafe that borders on the industrial, with gorgeous light fixtures and carabao bar stools they designed themselves, a great subway tile wall, and a surprisingly high ceiling despite the small location. Jade used to work in construction, and the expertise shows.
Staff is very pleasant and cheerful. Plus, you can tell that they’re proud of what’s on the menu, which is always a good sign.
Save for a few accidents, Jade and Sarada have been vegetarian since birth, and a few years ago, the sisters decided to go fully vegan. It was easier on both of them because they made the transition together, and now they make it easier for the vegans and vegan-curious in Makati to get yummy, hearty vegan meals. They prepare quite a few of the ingredients in-house, and they’re constantly tweaking recipes and keeping up-to-date on innovative new ways to make vegan versions of things, and the result is dishes that absolutely anyone, even the most skeptical of omnivores, can enjoy. (Ask Sarada about how her boyfriend requested that she serve his friends Green Bar burritos for Game Night.)
Do note that their serving sizes are large. My sister and I tasted a large variety of things on their menu, but I would imagine Sassy girls would be satisfied with two to three dishes between two people. We ended up having large bags of take-away ourselves.
The Benny and the Jacks Sandwich and the Breakfast Burrito were the heaviest amongst our options. They were also the dishes we agreed our brothers wouldn’t have complained about – I don’t even think they would have noticed that the “sausage” wasn’t sausage at all, but seitan. In fact strict vegans have been known to call over their servers and double-check to make sure. The tofu-egg and faux mayonnaise are also great substitutes.
The Blueberry “Ricotta” Pancakes, new on the menu, were great. They were moist and decadent. A bit unlike the fluffy pancakes we’ve gotten used to with boxed mixes, but I would take Jade’s recommendation and have these as a post-workout snack. The blueberries are drizzled on with their own syrup, and there are little pockets of “ricotta” throughout the stack. You don’t need to add anything to this mysteriously eggy confection to enjoy it.
We tried the Queso Pop as well, their version of quesadillas, and while the “cheese” tasted slightly different from what I’m used to, the melty texture was perfect, and my little sister was full of questions on how they could come up with dairy-free cheese that tasted like that. The tortilla was also perfectly crisp. It even held up until we had the leftovers for dinner!
For those looking for an even healthier experience, Green Bar does have salads. They have a few pre-set bowls, but you can always make your own if you’re feeling more hands-on about it. I would personally recommend the delicious mashed chickpeas for protein, to include as many colors as possible for a full spectrum of nutrients and the most appetizing plate, and the tangy ranch dressing. Again, I don’t know how they do it, but this dressing is a winner. Sarada mentioned that it’s difficult to get a creamy vegan dressing elsewhere, so she usually has a plain vinaigrette. While I do enjoy my olive oil and balsamic vinegar on a regular basis, it’s always nice to have options, and I think I’ll be taking this one again on my next trip to Green Bar. Try it!
For dessert, the doughnuts. Green Bar is gaining a following for these. I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth, I think, so I had to split with my sister, but I did love the texture of the dough. And even if they were still deep-fried, they didn’t feel greasy! The hundreds of tries they took to get the batter just right were definitely worth it. Oh, and we thought it was so intriguing how the marshmallow fluff on the s’mores doughnut came from water vegetables soaked in!
Don’t forget to try the fresh ginger ale. It’s the most refreshing thing, and I could have it all summer long.
Do your body and the planet a favor and have a cholesterol-free, comforting meal at Green Bar. (Yes, apparently, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.) Or order in through Food Panda, their delivery partner for those lazy days when you don’t feel like braving the Makati traffic. I promise you won’t be hungry after, but you’ll feel a bit virtuous about your meal, anyway. Unless you have 5 doughnuts or something, maybe, but then…who’s counting?
Green Bar, 2/F West of Ayala Building, 252 Gil Puyat Ave., Makati, Metro Manila, 02 885 7537