Destinations

Pipino (Vegetarian Food by Pino): Creative vegetarian chow

Vegetarian resto Pipino may have started as just the little sister (or bother) or Pino Restaurant, but it has become a must-visit for green lovers. Visit to see why.

“We know how hard it is to be a vegetarian in this country, and we believe that you should be able to go into a restaurant and not have to worry about unwanted meat in your dishes.” Here is this venue then that serves “convenient and deliciously satisfying meals for all vegetarians and veggie-lovers.” Because this resto “takes your favorite Filipino fare and turns them into creative dishes… to bring you a vegetarian restaurant that bridges healthy and delicious.”

That, in not so many words, is the spiel given by Pipino – which is actually somewhat of an offshoot of the restaurant Pino. Remember when every Jollibee branch in the Philippines used to have a (smaller) branch of Greenwich attached to it? Well, if Pino is Jollibee, then Pipino is its Greenwich. When Pipino was opened in April 2011, it almost seemed as an afterthought since it was only a six-item line of Pino’s menu. Eventually, though, this place has grown into a resto of its own. And it is largely because, yes, of that spiel of theirs, which they – fortunate for health buffs – somewhat fulfills.

Pipino’s venues are… in a word, nice, albeit small. Small because they only form parts of the bigger Pino; though nice, nonetheless, because – while nothing fancy can be seen here – they easily bring to mind small town cafés. Wooden tables with wooden benches? Check. Blackboards with the day’s offerings written for surveying? Check. Young (and friendly) waiters/waitresses (like they’re working their way to school)? Check. Heck, there’s even a bulletin board in the branch in Quezon City – in case you’d like to post or get info on those who post stuff there. No wonder that the yuppies, celebrities, fashion models (arguably diet conscious), bohemian, et cetera frequent the place…

All the same, the venue (for all its niceness) wouldn’t matter much if the food isn’t good.

And Pipino delivers on its promise somehow.

They have – for the lack of a more dramatic word – “common” offerings that can be found in most other restos. For soup (P45), there’s the Cream of Pumpkin, Cabbage Noodle Soup, Cilantro Soup, Tomato Soup, among others. They’re okay, though not too memorable for me – unlike Le Bistro’s Minestrone Soup with Malunggay Pesto, or even (now this isn’t that healthy, though it’s definitely good) Yellow Cab’s Tomato Cream Soup.

But starting with the starters and beyond, the dining starts to become… an experience.

Must-try starters, for me, include: Tofu Satay (with peanut sauce, P165) that may as well be called “yum balls”; and the Raw Dip Platter (miso malunggay pesto, aioli and carrot dips with vegetable sticks and pita bread, P195) that has something for just about everyone (even the non-vegetarian, but curious enough).

For entrée, try Banana Polenta (with asparagus salad and dried tomato confit, P220), which effectively merges the banana’s sweet mush with the dried tomatoes prune-y flavor; Squash Risotto (with toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh ginger, P125), which is filling without being nakakasawa (feeling like you’ve had too much); and Vegetable Curry (with couscous and tofu chips, P195), which has just enough tang so that that after-meal taste curry tends to leave in the mouth isn’t apparent. And then there’s the Watermelon Steak (with taro miso mash, string beans and pickled mushrooms, P220), which tasted just as I remembered steak to taste like (when I used to stuff myself with steak in the past) – succulent somehow, and juicy (thanks to the watermelon’s juices), too, so that “mouth-watering” gets new meaning/becomes literal.

Other offerings include: Portobello Inasal (with red beet purée, ensaladang talong and brown rice, P260), and Stuffed Dried Tomatoes (with brown rice, mushroom salpicao and orange leek salad, P225).

Sandwiches tried included: Black Bean Burger (with lettuce and mango salsa on whole wheat bun, served with sweet potato fries and aioli, P155), and Tofu and Garlic Mushrooms (with aioli on whole wheat bread, P155).

Ditto, for pasta/noodles: Cheese-less Vegan Lasagna (with eggplant, zucchini and silken tofu ricotta, P120), Veggie Tempura with Udon (with soy mirin, P145), and Creamy Pesto (with wasabi onion rings, P165).

End the meal with the Choco Cake (dairy- and egg-free, P80 per slice), Cupcakes (green tea, vanilla cinnamon or red velvet, P50 apiece) and Muffins (choc chip, P30; coconut, P20; choco-banana, P20; and blueberry, P30), or – my must-try – Homemade Ice Cream by Pipino (P35 to P45 per serving, with flavors including fresh lemon, oreo, coconut, dark chocolate, an vanilla graham).

Turning vegetarian is indeed hard(er) because of the lack of places to dine as a greens-lover. And while not everything in Pipino works for my taste buds, it sure makes going green easy and… yes, tasty. Drop by and discover for yourself.

Pipino is open daily – from 11.00AM to 12.00MN from Monday to Saturday, and from 11.00AM to 10.00PM on Sundays. For reservations, catering, advanced orders for pick-ups, and bulk deliveries, call (+63 2) 4411773, or email pipinovegetarian@gmail.com.
For those who’d rather have stuff in front of their doors, Pipino delivers; call (+63 2) 2121212.
Else, head to its restos. In Quezon City, head to 39 Malingap Street, Teachers Village; while in Makati City, drop by #38 Jupiter Street (corner Planet Street).
For more info, visit http://www.pipinovegetarian.com/.

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