WITH many getting serious about their health, vegetables have become the veritable fountain of wellness. It helped (greatly) that its preparation has become inspired—ingenious even—hence, the sprouting of many interesting vegetarian restaurants.
One such haunt is The Vegetarian Kitchen. Set in a nondescript location in Mother Ignacia, it was a welcome sight for sore and hungry eyes. No less than Christian Soliongco, its General Manager, ushered me into its cozy interiors. Paintings, portraits, and elegantly-arranged colorful couches amused me while I sipped on a frosted glass of lemon cooler.
Hare Krishna beginnings
In 1990, Tita M. Soliongco married a Hare Krishna priest. His way of life, one of which is being vegetarian, became hers. But after some time, she got bored with the usual boiled and steamed vegetables, so she experimented with different kinds of veggie meats and came up with exciting vegetable menus for her family.
Her healthy meatless meals became such a hit that soon, relatives and friends are urging her to spread her message of good food and good health.
Giving in to popular demand, Tita opened the Vegetarian Kitchen that same year.
But it was an idea ahead of its time, and in only 2 years, The Vegetarian Kitchen closed its doors. This proved temporary as health and wellness slowly took root in the Filipino consciousness.
In 2012, the family thought the market was ready, so the Vegetarian Kitchen again took its spot in the vegeterian food arena, with son Christian “Kiko” Soliongco at its helm.
With its many sumptious offerings, it looks like it is here to stay.
“We have a different take on vegetarian cuisines. As you can see, we don’t have salads, and we usually change our menu once a week because we want our customers to be always curious of what to expect next. We also have servings that are good for sharing. Our presentation of our vegetarian food is also unique. We don’t just present it plainly. If its kaldereta sa gata without the meat, then, it should really look like and taste like one. We value the texture of the food,” Kiko explained.
They also get their ingredients from the local market and local grocery and stand by their philosophy of freshness. “It’s a big thing in any food business,” Kiko explains. “Firstly, we don’t use garlic and onions, because it contributes to quicker spoilage.”
The Soliongcos are also not big believers in organic produce, which is more expensive than non-organics. “We want to teach other people that it’s not hard to be a vegetarian,” he says. The other message is that it is also inexpensive.
Matriarch Tita became a vegetarian in 1988, while her children Kiko and Camille embraced the vegetarian life in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
Learning from their mother, the siblings are serious about their roles in The Vegetarian Kitchen. Tita supervises the cooking, while daughter Camille is the veritable helper, taking charge when their mother is not around. With very discriminating vegetarian palates, this family-run enterprise makes sure that only the most nutritious and delicious dishes come out of their kitchen. As GM, Kiko takes care of the diners. The personal touch of this family makes their ever-growing clientele come back again and again and again.
It does help that the restaurant is, for all intents and purposes, their home.
“We just live upstairs. Bumababa lang kami when the restaurant opens (We just go down when the restaurant opens). It’s really an Ideal business, especially when you’re starting a family. Like my sister, she just started her family. Being in this kind of business allows her to be with her child every day,” Kiko said, explaining in the vernacular that she just goes up and down. A perfect arrangement.
Perfect for all, in fact. In truth, they are just ushering people into their home, sharing their philosophy of good health, and having a big party all the time.
What? No meat?
It did not seem so.
The Vegetarian Crispy Danggit with Eggless Egg Scrambled had light and non-greasy veggie danggit. The tofu tomato scramble flavored with turmeric and salt boggled my mind as it perfectly simulated fried eggs.
The Meatless Chicken Teriyaki Skewers could not have been meatless. I could swear there was meat in there—but there was none. It was all health—easy on the tongue and easy to digest.
The Meatless Almondigas with misua and patola was a refreshing, delightful, light soup.
But I can say that the Orange Cheesecake is my favorite. It was not dense, and had that melt-in-your-mouth texture. The base was a butter crust (instead of the usual graham cracker crust) so it was also low in calories (great for those of us watching our weight!).
Other offerings included the Apple Pie Cheesecake, Eggless Dark Chocolate Cake and Vegan Carrot Cake. Paired with Soy Coffee, every bite was a slice of heaven, albeit, a very healthy one.
The Vegetarian Kitchen
Address: 62-B Mother Ignacia Avenue, Quezon City (near Crossroads 77 and in front of St. Mary’s College).
Contact: (02)355-5622 and (0915)830-0511.
Price range: Entrees cost P220 to 240 (about CAD$6), while desserts are at P140 (about CAD$4).