Nowadays, grabbing a healthy lunch is not always easy. That’s unless of course you live in an area where all the freshest ingredients and colorful vegetables can be found. One afternoon, as I was searching the web for “healthy eating restaurants,” I found Pino Resto Bar in Jupiter Street, Makati. I heartily bookmarked it on Zomato and decided to treat my family to lunch on a Sunday. Their menu turned out to be a riot of plates whose ingredients tumbled across vegetarian and non-vegetarian modern Filipino dishes. These are food which I describe as those that aren’t ashamed of their nutritional stats. 🙂
For those of you who don’t frequent the North and are not familiar with Pino Resto Bar + Pipino Vegetarian, Pino serves creative comfort Filipino food, while Pipino presents vegetables in more playful light. The person behind both is Chef Ed Bugia who wanted to redefine the concept of Filipino comfort food and serve something special.
Review of Pino Resto Bar (Bel-Air, Makati City)
The entire place was reserved to a christening of a baby that day. I didn’t call ahead and make a reservation, so that was my bad. Pino Resto Bar was nicely setup with pink balloons and white curtain-like table cloths. I’m sure the place is not designed like that normally, so I won’t anymore give a rating for the ambiance.
Leaving Pino without tasting its food would be a letdown. On that note, I asked the staff if they could allow us to be seated at The Burger Project instead, since it’s operated by the same management as Pino Resto Bar anyway. Fortunately, he agreed and assisted us to the adjacent restaurant. We ordered food from there, and the dishes quickly arrived from a shared kitchen of BRGR and Pino.
Sufficiently buttery, Pino’s version of the Vegetable Kare-kare (PhP 185) was not the best I have tasted so far but it could be unfailingly pleasing for most vegetarians and vegans alike. I found the nuttiness a little bland if not eaten with the Bagoong Rice (below) made of black beans. To improve, I think the taste will be enhanced if there’s some level of heat we can live with.
The Calamares Negra (PhP 275) was comforting and slightly elevated. Because they’re black, you might have the impression that the pieces were dipped in squid ink. I don’t know if that’s right, but I’m sure that these hit the spot as they’re quite exotic and yummy. It’s a new spin from a simply fried calamari with a golden crust we often are served in most restaurants.
The quality of layered pasta in Pino Resto Bar’s Vegan Lasagna (PhP 175) was great. Balanced in flavor, this lasagna had a great mix of sweet and tart elements—the kind of bright, popping flavors that Southeast Asian cuisine is known for. The tomato sauce dominated the top part and it was assertive but not so much as to overwhelm the vegetarian fillings.
As the name Watermelon Steak (PhP 245) appeared on the menu, it got me curious on how it would look and taste like. It sounded suspicious and ended up nothing particularly good. Watermelon juice oozing out in every forkbite was just weird. The mushrooms, asparagus and mashed potatoes were memorably delicious.
We destroyed the mystery of kale and malunggay in one when we had two orders of the Kale Malunggay Pesto Pasta (PhP 195). Hearty and heavy went hand-in-hand. With a substantial amount of pesto flavor, this pasta dish could be better with toasted pine nuts scattered on top and a bit of grated Parmesan.
Having started our day at Pino with kare-kare, it was perfectly acceptable to end it with one, too. This time though, we had the Seafood Kare-kare (PhP 625) which featured various seafood such as shrimps, mussels and squids. It was totally likable. The peanut gravy and the coconut milk blended well together. Adding an extra luscious dimension was the richness of the texture of the sauce. This can be your Achilles heel!
Price for Value: ★★★★☆
The meal was certainly not cheap considering the small serving size of the dishes, but overall it was not preposterously expensive either. Most of the dishes are around the PhP 200 mark, and the mains similarly push you to spend from about PhP 250 to PhP300. To get lucky with good choices, the trick is to realize before you place your order what you are going to get. Vegetarian or non-vegetarian, or probably a mix of both.