Seeking greener pastures...
In recent years, healthy living has made its way into people's consciousness and lifestyle. Changes include the increasing awareness of the importance of exercise with more people joining races and marathons; the propagation of membership gyms; and the gaining popularity of fitness regimens such as Yoga, Zumba, CrossFit, etc. In terms of food, diets such as Cohen, Paleo or juicing are not only for the weight conscious or those with health problems anymore. It is such that people have transcended to the prevention-is-better-than-cure way of thinking.
A few chefs and restaurateurs have braved the current diningscape to offer a farm-to-table or an all-natural concept. For these restaurants, the greater challenge is to present an organic menu that eliminates the usual connotation of the food being dull and uninspired. Chef Robby Goco with his latest venture, Green Pastures, has managed to overcome this with his laudable efforts to use high-quality ingredients sourced from different regions around the country, have fun with these elements, and serve scrumptious fare that's unique and exceptionally creative.
Green Pastures takes its farm-to-table concept quite seriously. The restaurant structure is reminiscent of a box-type farmhouse with wooden boards for walls, and tall wooden shutters for doors and windows, giving it a distinct feature among the cluster of restaurants on the 4th floor of Shangri-La Mall's East Wing. A wall lined with rows of planter boxes greets you as you notice the juice and salad bar on the right, and an open kitchen to your left. Servers are even clad in plaid shirts and jeans with name tags bearing the nickname Betty or Bob. More tables and chairs are set up on either side of the "farmhouse", still, reservations are highly recommended as the place can get filled up in a heartbeat.
The menu is seemingly simple with a typewriter font and lacking the usual photos. A closer look at the bottom indicates their intention of changing some dishes every now and then, with the presence of a monthly salad confirming its stand.
Start with their iced teas made with organic honey. The Organic Melon Green Tea is my desired variant with its slightly sweet property that's still downright refreshing as the citrus color it comes with. Smoothies, wines, and single origin organic coffee are also available to meet your beverage preferences.
Freshly pulled buffalo milk is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and partially covered with arugula. Stringy like the familiar mozzarella in a pizza, the Stracciatella has a more creamy texture and pairs well with the slightly bitter taste of peppered arugula. Sadly, the hardened toast makes it difficult to enjoy the delicate cheese as it makes chewing a bit of a task.
The Pinoy Eggs---or Egg, if we're to get technical---is a large, five minute free range duck egg encased in crushed longganisa and a mantle of breadcrumbs. Impaling it with a knife and fork causes a stream of golden yolk to ooze out onto a bed of fiddlehead fern salad, dotted with cherry tomatoes. Pay attention as it isn't some side dish that's meant to just give color to the whole thing. The acidulous salad is actually good enough to stand on its own.
Speaking of salads, Green Pastures, which is originally meant to be just an organic salad bar, offers a D.I.Y. Salad that lets you unleash your creativity by combining your choice of greens, veggies, crunchies, proteins, and dressing in a large wooden bowl.
You may also opt for their signature salads, one of which is the October Salad that comprises organic romaine, red leaf, green leaf, red cabbage, roasted squash, bell peppers, pears, basil, cranberries, almonds, feta cheese, and Red titan dressing. Cranberries in salads always lend that sweet taste among a sea of acerbity, making it favorable to my palate. But here, a multifarious mix of flavors is achieved in a good way, ending it with a bit of a spicy kick from that Red titan dressing.
The Crab Meat and Sea Urchin Pasta is a revelation. Being used to uni as a one-man show in Japanese restaurants, it's surprising to see it work with other components as well. The play of flavors is a refined symphony, a subtle rumination of the ocean amid a sea of al dente noodles.
They also have a sampling of their 3 burgers: 80/20 Burger with 80% Wagyu beef and 20% double smoked organic panchetta with housemade stracciatella on buttered brioche; Blue Ribbon Burger which is grilled freshly ground Kitayama Wagyu blend with Roquefort bleu cheese butter on grilled brioche; and Vegetarian Burger with housemade cheddar cheese on potato bun.
Of the three, the only one I tried was the Vegetarian Burger that definitely doesn't suck. 100% vegetarian burger made with organic chickpeas, mushrooms, leeks, celery and eggplant is topped with cheddar cheese, fried mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and lettuce. If all vegetarian burgers were this good, I just might go over to the green side ("might" being the operative word here). But seriously, this healthy little thing could have given any other beef burger slider a run for its money.
To complete the Sliders is an oval flan mold pan filled with crisp fries dredged with grated parmesan and parsley. You can opt to dip it into the cumin mayo, but I'd rather pass up on this unpalatable condiment. I should have asked for some homemade tomato ketchup or aioli instead, albeit the fries are already good enough on their own.
Tequila Joe's famous Sloppy Cow makes a comeback in organic form. Tender chunks of beef drenched in oyster jus and mushroom glace gives off that familiar garlic flavor. Make no mistake, that isn't rice in the orange ceramic bowl that accompanies this salpicao. It's actually bulgur, a cereal food made mostly from durum wheat, which is high in fiber and protein while low in fat and calories.
Don't even think about leaving Green Pastures without indulging in some of their inventive desserts. The Salted Caramel Ice Cream comes with a dollop of whipped cream, and sits on a pool of housemade chocolate sauce with a smattering of popcorn crunch, the sight of which immediately conjures up images from the Top Chef show in my mind.
At the bottom of the MilkEggsHoney is an organic honeycomb, white in hue due to the rambutan, lanzones and other fruits that the bees feed on. On top of that is a blob of housemade Greek yogurt, and marrying all the elements together is the citrus curd cascading from the top down, blanketing the pristine whiteness with the color of sunshine. A reciprocity of sweet and sour gingerly dances on your tongue, and the sporadic presence of cashew nuts provides a nice textural contrast to the chewiness of the honeycomb.
This dish is not for everyone, as no one else in my family liked this concoction. But if you allow your mind to grasp the deceptively complex coalescence of all the components, you'd appreciate the ingenuity behind this stellar dessert.
Indeed, Chef Robby Goco proves that healthy food can mean delectable food. The copious amount of flavor in each dish makes me forget that I'm eating comestibles devoid of MSG. Certainly, the menu will keep you intrigued and yearning to go back for another round of healthy fare.
Spot: 4/F East Wing Shangri-La Mall, Mandaluyong
Contact No.: 654.3219