First Impressions on The Wholesome Table: Does Flavor Have To Suffer When Food is Organic?

Most Filipinos can’t resist the deep fried call of pork or the fat-soaked broth of bulalo, but a homecooked meal is never complete without a little vegetable color. Vegetables are an inevitable part of Filipino dining: from the straightforward root crop and vegetable-based diet of our farmers, to the bowls of sinigang and nilaga flavored by carrots, cabbages, potatoes, and more. Eating vegetables has recently been taken a level higher with restaurants like The Wholesome Table introducing dishes made with “antibiotic-free, nitrate-free, unprocessed, raw, fresh, organic, cold-pressed, and superfood” ingredients. They not only hope to introduce a delicious meal to its recipients, but also food that is not toxic and makes sure that one “eats right and eats well.” The Wholesome Table introduces organic food in its menu, with the full intention of making sure it becomes a lifestyle for its diners. Each item indicates if it’s vegan, vegetarian, non-fat, dairy-free, and/or gluten-free.

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Step into this restaurant at Bonifacio High Street Central and you’ll feel as if someone tried to get you out of the area but still couldn’t let go of posh Metro Manila comforts. There are trees planted inside and a few hanging plants in an attempt to recreate a farm-like setting. At the same time, the restaurant’s target market needs to keep comfortable so the “greenery” is set against the trending Pinterest-slash-Tumblr minimalist-hipster aesthetic. While we were waiting between orders, the waiter placed a candle on our table. I found that odd since we were inside, but a few flies that passed by explained the need for a candle. Yes, there were flies inside the restaurant, and a lot of them.

The Wholesome Table introduces organic food in its menu, with the full intention of making sure it becomes a lifestyle for its diners.

Their menu offers several types of dishes that can form a complete meal or give plenty of choice for those unsure of what to eat on a first visit. Their salads include the Kale, Caesar! and Seaweed Salad. Kale is becoming old news and having it as a Caesar salad didn’t seem too inventive. Unfortunately the Seaweed Salad we wanted to order, as well as the Vegan Cheese weren’t available at the time. The rest of our orders—the Turkey Scotch Egg (PHP 160), Chicken Marsala with Oven Roasted Vegetables (PHP 750), and the Braised Pork Fettuccine (PHP 430)—were available. We opted instead for the Enlightened Bowl (PHP 320) to replace our salad order.

Before we were served our three orders, we were given a free appetizer of potato buns. They appeared like bread but didn’t act as a decent alternative to that go-to carbohydrate snack. The buns tasted like nothing even with the butter lathered all over. We added some salt to make the buns more enjoyable, but that addition felt forced and then made the bread way too salty against the initial blandness.

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The biggest disappointment that day was the Chicken Marsala. The overpriced PHP 750 plate tasted nothing like Marsala and the chicken was drowning in sickeningly sweet sauce.

The servers started off our meal with the Enlightened Bowl. This seemed like an odd first dish to be served as it was a large bowl of brown rice topped with lettuce, cucumber, pickled onion, avocado, mixed seeds, fried tofu, shiitake mushrooms, and pea sprouts. At first the bowl appeared filling, but a spoonful of it tasted otherwise. There was just too much going on with all those vegetables competing for our palate. The brown rice also appeared more yellow due to the ginger dressing. I didn’t even taste much of the ginger either as the pickled onion overpowered the other vegetables. The tofu was chewy rather than crunchy in each bite. The rest had no flavor whatsoever, and the avocado seemed out of place. It tasted like one of the avocados from an avocado con hielo, but with the sugar and milk wiped out and only the soft texture left over.

What should’ve been the first dish was given after the not-so-enlightening bowl: the Turkey Scotch Egg. Other restaurants like Rambla and Blackbird are serving this kind of egg, so Wholesome Table’s Turkey Scotch Egg sets itself apart by using free-range duck eggs wrapped in all-natural turkey sausage. This item was the complete opposite of the enlightened bowl, but in a bad way: this time, the egg lacked any flavor.

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On the Braised Pork Fettuccine: they may have made sure the pig was treated well, but that animal’s sacrifice was lost in this pasta dish.

The biggest disappointment that day was the Chicken Marsala. The overpriced PHP 750 plate tasted nothing like Marsala and the chicken was drowning in sickeningly sweet sauce. It almost tasted like the Sweet and Sour Pork of North Park, but without the sour factor and with the sickening sweetness of Chowking’s Orange Chicken. The roasted vegetables were drowned in the overly sweet sauce and we could taste none of the Marsala wine. The thigh and leg parts were wasted on the monopoly of one taste.

We were hoping their Braised Pork Fettuccine would save our lunch. After all, you can’t go wrong with a description of “slow milk-braised pork shoulder.” They may have made sure the pig was treated well, but that animal’s sacrifice was lost in this pasta dish. The milk it was supposedly braised in tasted like old cream and curdled in the pork’s juices. The juices appeared watery and the pork wasn’t tender at all. The pork did not deliver that softness you expect from a pulled preparation. The pieces reminded me more of bland lechon left in the fridge for weeks. I could taste none of the Pecorino Romano cheese and the fettuccine did not soak up the supposed “sauce” this pasta was meant to have.

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Unfortunately in a country like the Philippines and the boom of restaurants in the last few years, it will take a lot more than good intentions to convince more people into a “toxic-free” lifestyle.

I may not have chosen vegetarianism and vegan eating as a lifestyle, but I do appreciate this restaurant’s intentions and efforts to source ingredients locally. There’s also the commendable introduction of food that promotes healthy living. Unfortunately, in a country like the Philippines and the boom of restaurants in the last few years, it will take a lot more than good intentions to convince more people into a “toxic-free” lifestyle. Vegetables do taste good and I’ve heard many vegan and gluten-free restaurants abroad have translated taste well without sacrificing one’s health. Heck we even have quite a few vegan or vegetarian restaurants that champion the same issues, but with much tastier dishes. Perhaps The Wholesome Table just needs a little more time to get all the flavor out of its ingredients.

Have you tried The Wholesome Table? What do you think of their dishes? Do you think organic, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free food will fly in the Philippines? Sound off in the comments section below!

The Wholesome Table
Upper Ground Level, Bonifacio High Street Central
BGC, Taguig

22 Responses

  1. I have to agree with Boo, especially regarding erwan’s chain of restaurants. Very expensive and small servings for mediocre taste in food. I don’t get the appeal. What we need is home grown affordable and tasty meals. I can actually recommend this place in Los Banos who is the epitome of that called Herb Republic. You’re actually the only writer who was honest about this place. The budhha bowl was good though when I ate there but everything else was forgettable.

  2. To be honest I was quite intrigued by the whole concept then I found out it was run by Bianca Araneta and then all the food cred was gone. Haha! Mean? no, I think that’s just being honest. In the same way that Erwan Heusaff’s restaurants are all hype but so-so food.

  3. Hi. I should have read your review before eating there. My friend and I dined in, we didn’t order the same food as yours, but I think they were just as disappointing. Well, except for the Chicken dukkah salad. Or something like that. I actually liked it. But the eggplant parmigiana, the pizza and calamari, they were all disappointing. How can one get calamari wrong? it’s a basic taste, and very familiar, so I can’t figure out how they got it wrong. They were very chewy, and tasted so bland. The parmigiana had big chunks of tofu, and tasted so bland too. They just lined up small eggplant slices and put sauce and cheese. Nothing special. And the pizza, nothing amazing. I think it’s great that they use local organic stuff, but I agree with you: they could do more with flavor. Im not saying it’s always bad, maybe it was only that one lunch time that they got so many food wrong, but I think this place is overrated. And they have a lot to improve on.

  4. Hi Gela! This is Paulo Sambile. How can we invite you to review our food? I may also be reached thru mobile # 0927 8356910

  5. The restaurant just seems to be too trying hard in emulating the growing western fascination with healthier eating. I feel like most of the people who go there eat to see the decor or to gain “the esteem” of being a fashionable and healthy eater that’s so common in instagram.

  6. I got to try all their rice bowls (power bowl, protein bowl, enlightened bowl). They were all really good. It’s nice to find real vegan options (and not just “vegetarian” ones), sooo I did enjoy my experience there since I didn’t have to worry about if the dish had cheese/animal products.

  7. I actually very much enjoyed the two meals I had there and I’m quite shocked to see that you had such a bad experience. I had the salmon pasta and thought it was delicious (I’m Italian). We were served bread while waiting for our meal and it was reminiscent of sour dough bread, also very good. My friend had a salad which she said she enjoyed very much. I would suggest giving it another shot 🙂

  8. I appreciate the honesty of this post. I too had a bad experience with their restaurant and I was wondering if it was just me. I’m sure the other blogs would have given rave reviews but this one is a post I related to. I should have read through first before dining there.

  9. I actually liked their Chicken something Salad (can’t remember the whole name). That’s it. Also tried their Pesto. Let’s just say I’d rather buy the Clara Ole instant pasta sauce. Their Pork Chop was bland and undercooked.

  10. We ate there last month and the salad was lifeless and expensive. Even the pizza compares poorly with other restaurants. Not sure what Our Awesome Planet is raving about, i think I will trust Pepper.ph more moving forward.

    1. I feel bad for anyone that still trusts He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s “reviews”. The man is an embarrassment to the craft of food writing. No ethics at all. That sleazeball actually put his own ramen restaurant in his site’s top 10 ramen rankings. Not that his ramen is bad, but it’s nothing more than an Ukkokei ripoff.

  11. i’ve tried the kale cesar with grilled chicken and that was pretty good — felt the same way about the scotch eggs —it lacked flavor (missing the ones that Struan and Tang did – talk about a throwback!) — the meatloaf was just ok… but i think it needed a bit more fat to make it moist and some sort of counterpoint in the mix. just an ok resto – the organic part leaves a feel good feeling of doing the right thing —- maybe this is what’s saving it.

  12. Uh, perhaps those were organic, all-natural flies? 😉

    Seriously though, I’ve always thought that organic farming and the attendant respect for ingredients that it entails would result in better food. I guess that it’s more of a “should.”

  13. Totally agree with your review. Calling it wholesome and farm to table or gluten free or whatever the trend is these days doesn’t give it an excuse to omit flavor. Tried the lasagna, the Barcelona pizza, some vegetable bowl and the meatloaf. Consistently bland and lack of imagination. Masking unimaginative food under the guise of healthy and then charging relatively high prices is what you get at Wholesome table.

    1. Eep I was hoping it was just a few orders and they had maybe a few that are at least worth the try. Hay. Money well spent is always the goal with a restaurant. At least, it should be.

  14. Sad to hear that. I enjoyed my Wholesome Table experience. Their beef burger, salmon pasta, mashed potatoes, and sweetened yogurt were really good!

  15. This is cool. And 750 for that portion? Even if it’s organic or whatever, that’s highway robbery.

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