Have a Semi-Healthy Start with Garde MangerJanuary 11, 2016
The word “healthy,” accompanied by the word “organic,” was once deemed trendy, but has now become an important lifestyle that permeates even the diets of those less concerned with the trope. Nowadays, in addition to standalone vegan, vegetarian, or organic restaurants, menus in the city are noticing the demand for fresh and sustainable, introducing healthier options alongside their regular fare.
In a way, it is this movement that has set the groundwork for chef Miko Aspiras’s new venture Garde Manger in Hole in the Wall, where he works alongside common collaborators Kristine Lotilla and Noel Mauricio. Known often for their work in the dessert department, where indulgence is key, Garde Manger addresses these concerns and combines it with an outlook that is completely theirs.
“It is healthy, but not healthy,” Aspiras describes. It is a tongue-in-cheek response to ultra-trendy establishments—there are bowls of salads and fresh juices abundant on the menu, but with flavor at the forefront, and some lavish components that you would never see at a salad bar. To start, a sisig rillette salad, made with all the graciously fatty, gelatinous bits of face and ear starring alongside organic, fresh greens. Another salad comes chock-full of octopus, with a pronounced tart dressing and slaw.
The marriage of indulgence and wholesomeness work cleverly in their wraps—tofu quinoa may sound conservative, but the combination is hearty, and the accompanying coconut basil dip adds more flavor than combinations like these things are often subjected to. Even better are their more substantial offerings: a bowl of Chilean mussels is doused in a red Thai curry base enhanced with yellow curry powder, which is lightened by peppery arugula. A ceviche could easily cement itself among the better ones in the city, made up of whatever seafood is fresh that day (in this case, tiger prawns, scallop, tiny briny clams, and tuna) with a tart but well-balanced salsa roja making up its foundation.
Garde Manger is all about balance, a testament to the team’s fondness for precision both in technique and flavor. It addresses food trends in a fun way, which is really what Hole in the Wall is about anyway. It’s the perfect start to healthier beginnings—without removing pleasure from the equation.