VASK’s culinary team is lead by Executive Chef Jose Luis Gonzales, “Chele” for short. His stellar resume includes stints at several of the world’s best restaurants such as elBulli, Mugaritz, and Noma. Whether he’s delicately trimming herbs to use as garnish, carefully smoking foie gras, or handling each plate personally (with such care you would think it was made of glass), you see a person who is incredibly in love with his work. His work, in return, loves him back, as evidenced by his meticulously and intricately prepared dishes. The best part? We all benefit because we’re the ones who get to eat his creations.
VASK uses molecular gastronomy to make chocolate bubbles, beet snow, and gelatinized cheese.
VASK is a tapas bar that is ballsy enough to further the flourishing Metro Manila food scene through the use of molecular gastronomy in their food. Molecular gastronomy is a sub-discipline of food science that applies the principles of modern technology to various edible ingredients. Imagine chocolate bubbles, beet snow, and gelatinized cheeses. Basically, this is what food would look like if Gordon Ramsay decided to hang out with Dexter to cook in his laboratory.
The concept of a 14-course meal might seem overwhelming at first, but you have nothing to worry about. You’ll quickly spot familiar homegrown ingredients (such as tocino, kalamansi, and mangosteen) to make you feel at ease about what you’re getting yourself into. Though I did have to Google what membrillo (quince marmalade) and toothfish (sea bass) were, the rest of the menu was very straightforward.
We started off with Magellan’s Dimsum, which comprised of two different cheeses and a palette cleanser. The Parmesan Xiao Long Bao was gelatinous and mimicked the texture of Jell-O, while the Gorgonzola Moshi reminded me of a slightly-melted savory marshmallow. The crisp Apple Wanton served as a fitting neutralizer after the cheeses.
The Beer Urchin was a bold statement as it was served in a unique plaster bowl that resembled a sea urchin. As Chele explained the elements present in the dish, he described how he wanted to depict the yin-yang relationship between the earth and the sea; ergo, a Foie Gras crumble and Beer Clam Foam. Dig deeper and you’ll find some uni with flavors that’ll remind you of the ocean, combined with the bitter notes of the beer and the rich taste of the foie gras. The citrusy caramelized oranges afterwards are there to even out the experience.
The Foie in a Rock comes in spherical bowl that’s made exclusively for VASK (in fact, all plates in VASK are exclusively made and designed by Carlo Calma, partner of VASK who’s also an architect and interior designer). Foie Gras is cooked sous vide-style and smoked. A thick coffee sauce, bananas, and banana chips are added to transform the dish into a playground of texture and flavor.
These Shooters are chocolate lava-filled chocolate bubbles. On your first bite you’ll get the partially solidified chocolate, soft enough to sink your teeth into, then the Strawberry-Oregano coulis starts dancing with your senses, providing a subtle floral and herby flavor. The Mangosteen adds depth to the dessert, while the ginger ice cream serves as a nice finale to wrap up the dish.
VASK knows how to flirt with the idea of modern cuisine and delivers with expectations met.
Chele’s dishes manage to create a strong impression on diners, exposing them to new sensory experiences in terms of taste, touch, and scent. As all tasting menus and degustations go, Chele is bound to change the set eventually. If you want to try the current incarnation, you better make that VASK reservation soon.