When I was invited to try Gusto!, a restaurant at The Corner Market food hall at The Podium in Ortigas, there was a moment of hesitation on my part. Its tagline, after all, was “Welcome to the gulayf.” And healthy meals are, well, not exactly my thing.
But I was told that the dishes at Gusto! have the right proportion of carbohydrates and protein, and more importantly, taste delicious. So off to The Podium I went.
“We are not a vegetarian restaurant,” confirmed restaurant owner Pia Ojeda. “We just offer healthier, cleaner food. Here you can build your own bowl and choose your protein and carbohydrates.”
There are seven main bowls to choose from—kimchi, lemon yogurt, sesame soy, kalabasa curry, silog, and Ojeda’s personal favorite—the peanut Nuoc Mam Cham.
Guests choose from five base carbohydrates—adlai (a local whole super grain sourced from Bukidnon), heirloom rice, vermicelli, soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles), and fresh greens from Ojeda’s family-owned El Dorado Farms.
Lastly, customers choose their own protein—chicken, tofu, beef, or shrimp, except for the silog bowl, which can be topped with tapa, chicken tocino, or tuyo.
“Most of our ingredients, we grow in our farm. If we don’t grow it, we source it from communities to help empower and support local farmers as well,” she said.
“Our price points are also competitive. We want to be very approachable for the everyday diner,” added Ojeda.
The bowls are priced at P250, and you just have to fork out an extra P55 if you want to upgrade the toppings to beef or shrimp.
I ordered the peanut Nuoc Mam Cham, with adlai as base and beef as topping. The bowl did not disappoint—the combination of the meat, farm greens, carrots, cucumber, sliced unripe mangoes, pickled ginger, and Vietnamese-style peanut sauce was surprisingly very flavorful. I could eat another bowl had the adlai not been very filling.
Gusto! also offers vegetarian chili, which is rich and hearty you can almost forget it doesn’t have meat in it; tomato parmesan soup; sweet potato leek soup; Mediterranean pita pocket with either chicken or tofu; and Italian hot beef sandwich.
Even the salad bowls look like “happy bowls”—none of the sad-looking dishes that one would associate with certain diets and hospital meals. Gusto! has zesty Caesar salad, El Dorado Farms cobb salad with blue cheese and tangy yogurt herb dressing, Kani Sesame with hints of miso, and tomato mozzarella salad.
Gusto! likewise serves fresh fruit shakes, but you have to ask the server what is fresh and on hand on the day that you visit. From dragonfruit and pineapple to honeydew and santol, the fruits are picked fresh from El Dorado Farms.
“We have a lot of return customers, and that makes us very happy. We want people to know that you can eat healthy and clean without spending too much,” said Ojeda.
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