Vask


Vask, is a modern Filipino / Tapas restaurant divided into several different concept areas. There is a bar and lounge area, a casual cafe dining area, as well as a fine dining area. The overall feel of the place is very playful and relaxed due to the decor, even the fine dining area has a very chill and tranquil ambiance. The multi-concept establishment is headed by Spanish Chef, Jose Luis “Chele” Gonzalez. I had the  immense pleasure of being invited to dine at Gallery Vask last week. I was truly surprised by their presentation and execution of the entire meal. It was a memorable and unique gastronomic journey exploring Filipino ingredients and food traditions interpreted in a very contemporary setting. Chef Chele’s experience comes from some of Spain’s best restaurants, or in other words, some of the best restaurants in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. If you don’t recognize any of these names, then let me just tell you he has a world class, enviable level of experience: El Bulli  – The unforgettable #1 rated restaurant for many years. A ground breaking institution, definitely worth researching. El Celler de Can Roca – #1 in 2013, #2 in 2014 Mugaritz  -#4 in 2013, #6 in 2014  and considered the “most adventurous restaurant”. Arzak -#8 in 2013, and #8 in 2014. Vask uses locally-sourced Filipino ingredients, and through modern cooking techniques, transforms them into something that feels very cutting edge. They have reinvented local ingredients into some amazingly fresh and inspiring translations. It is refreshing to experience such a well-executed modern menu. Speaking to Chef Chele after our meal was such a treat. He is truly inspired by Filipino ingredients and resources, and each dish we enjoyed that night was very evident of that. His attention to detail was superb. He apparently designs the plating of each course after he has created the dish. He’s known to travel to different regions of the Philippines to source specific native ingredients as well as the materials for the plating he envisions them to have.

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Believe it or not, this is the “short menu”.
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We started with a drink made of Calamansi liqueur,  coconut, and rum.
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A story unfolds as you open up the napkin. 🙂
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I didn’t get many decent pictures of the actual dining room because I was more interested in its open kitchen.

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The kitchen is extremely quiet, especially considering its close proximity to our table. It was the quietest kitchen I have ever experienced actually.
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Our meal began with “Binondo”. Binondo, is the Chinatown of Manila, and is famous for its street food. The skewered dish mimics a popular snack of barbecued chicken intestine called “Isaw”, but this version was a grilled shrimp paste mixture.

The following dishes were apart of “Lutong Bahay” roughly translated, “food cooked at home”.

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Steamed Duck Adobo Bun.
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Kefir lime eggplant. The strong flavor of the kefir was almost overpowering, but I respected the approach as it was one of the first courses and really opened my palate for something else.
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Okra stuffed with queso rustico, bagoong soil and ginger confit.
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Pickled Kamias with interesting crispy green peas.
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Possibly the best tasting dish overall in my opinion. A simple creamed corn soup with fried micro shrimp.
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“Aklan” Oyster, Okra Seed, Upo Seed (bottle gourd), and Verdolagas (purslane or Mexican parsley) . I loved the texture the Upo seed created for this dish. It added crunch without taking away from the delicate nature of the oyster.
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The kitchen crew putting together the Beer Urchin dishes.
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“Beer Urchin” Sea Urchin, Beer Clams, Foie Gras Powder and Orange
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The Foie Gras was frozen and ‘powdered’ using a Pacojet.
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The dish itself is ice cold and was one of our tables’ favorites overall.
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“Gotu Kola” Imbao (local shellfish), Bone Marrow, Pepino Melon. The greens themselves are the Gotu Kola, very bitter but  a highly regarded ‘brain tonic’ and overall medicinal herb . Check this link for more info.

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My favorite ingredient in this dish were the tiny melons.
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“Binulo” Alibangbang Leaves, Cochinillo (roast suckling pig), Elderberries.
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For the “Binulo” dish, hot pork broth cooked inside of bamboo is poured over Binulo pork, a recreation of the classicn Filipino stew,  sinigang. Binulo refers to anything cooked inside fresh bamboo stalks. If you have ever had bamboo rice before, you know this can be a very delicious flavor. The crispy leaf is from an Alibangbang, also known as the butterfly tree, and has a very complex flavor with sour overtones. Compared to every other ingredient that night, I was most interested in the Alibangbang leaves. Their flavor is quite unique and I would like to experiment more with them in my dishes.
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One of my personal favorite dishes, “Buro” Fermented Rice, Mustasa (Mustard Greens), Catfish. This dish was a great balance of strong yeast aroma, vinegar, and bitter greens. Very savory.
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This was a palate cleanser “Balubad”. Balubad is actually the fruit of the cashew tree. Very unique. I love sour things, so I really liked this.
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A pour over topping of a vegetable similar to cucumber, freeze dried. This is an excellent dish, and I can tell a lot of thought when into the combination of flavors and temperatures.
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“Sizzling” Wagyu Face, Egg, Imberico Pork, Onion, Chili. This is a modern reinterpretation of Sisig, a classic Filipino dish made from the crunchy cartilage and meat from a pigs ears face and nose. It is commonly served on a sizzling plate, hence the name “Sizzling” given to this course. To achieve the smokey effect of the sizzling plate, dry ice was used below the pans. It definitely added a dramatic flair to this dish.
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“Earth” Grilled Wagyu, Beet Stalk, Miso, Oil Beetrot, Ginger Sour Creme, Confit Ginger, Cilantro Root.
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This was the “steak” course and quite delicious. Everything on the plate was a unique flavor and begged to be eaten as it all complemented each other very well. The steak itself was very tender and cooked perfectly, I’ m guessing via Sous-Vide.

Dessert Sungka- It seems every time someone I know returns from traveling around the Philippines, they bring with them a local favorite homemade snack from whichever province they visited is famous for. It is tradition here, it seems, and those from certain provinces are always proud of the particular dessert or snack their people make the best.  It is quite common to always have a few of these small, locally famous treats around the house especially for Merienda (A light snack between meals) Sungka is a historic game in the Philippines that uses shells and a large board  with divots. The objective is to fill each space without occupying a empty hole left by the other player. The empty hole is called “burnt house”. I enjoyed people at the dinner table discussing over dessert how they weren’t allowed to play Sungka as children since it was considered bad luck due to the whole “burnt house” controversy.  🙂 Chef Chele combined the board of Sungka with the multitude of various treats to create a very cool dessert for the whole table to share. IMG_8988 IMG_8987 IMG_8986 IMG_8985 I’m going to attempt to name each one of the sweet treats starting from the  top left to the top right.

  1. Coconut Macaroon
  2. Local water chestnuts rolled in coco powder
  3. Local Cocoa Tablea-based dessert
  4. Peanut Brittle
  5. Coconut Gel
  6. Green Mango dipped in tablea chocolate
  7. Coffee Polvoron
  8. Pili Nuts
  9. Bucayo
  10. Yema
  11. Cashew Marzipan
  12. Tablea balls with Pinipig
  13. Tamarind Jelly
  14. Pastillas

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“Buen Viaje” Sticky Rice, Mango, Tablea (local chocolate).
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A tablea sauce is poured over the sticky rice flavored with blackberry.
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The mango was treated in a solution that left the outside slightly leathery but the inside very soft. Delicious.
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Meaning “have a nice trip”, Buen Viaje was the perfect goodbye.
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“Cassava” Coconut, Caraboa Milk, Biasong (native lime)
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This was my favorite dessert. It consisted of delicious coconut ice cream, milk skin from Carabao milk which was served two ways raw topped with Biasong zest, and torched until crisp. It also had cassava, a root crop that has a very sweet and savory flavor with gooey texture. Cassava is used in many Filipino desserts like cake and pie.
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The cassava paired perfectly with the Carabao milk which has a flavor similar to mild goats milk.

If you are in the Philippines, I highly recommend visiting Vask.  The interiors alone are worth checking out, but the dining experience is unforgettable.

Vask Address:
 5/F Clipp Center, 11th Avenue corner 39th Street
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, 1634 Metro Manila

vask map P.S. -Here are a few shots of their lounge interior. Really unique and ecclectic place. Like I said before, their approach with the interior,  and the art direction is somewhat playful. It could even be said to be reminiscent of a toy shop. This creates a really relaxed atmosphere for such a nice venue. IMG_8894 IMG_8912 IMG_8911 IMG_8910 IMG_8906 IMG_8903 IMG_8902 IMG_8901 IMG_8895

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