#BarDUNKgulan: When Food Brands Throw Shade at Each Other on Social Media
Social media users are having fun this week over #barDUNKgulan posts where brands are seemingly throwing shade at an ad and posting their own “dunk” versions.
July 01, 2022
Anybody living in Metro Manila and on a meat-free diet has at one point struggled to find a restaurant exclusively for vegans. That’s a given in a country like the Philippines where pork adobo is treated as the holy grail of ulams and there is an entire festival dedicated to celebrating roasted pig. Reluctant vegans like us have also found a string of excuses not to trade meat for greens such as not having enough time for meal preps or that being vegan isn’t exactly cheap (one kilo of cauliflower is around P250 versus one kilo of chicken for less than P200).
These problems are what iVegan is trying to address in its brick-and-mortar spot on Legazpi Street in Makati. The restaurant’s menu is a bible book of your typical meat eater’s diet translated into a plant-based version. There’s all-day breakfast consisting of adobo and tapa, burritos made with chorizo, sandwiches and burgers, pastas and pizzas, and staple Pinoy ulams such as sisig and kare-kare. All without a strand of traditional protein. Our team—all reluctant but nevertheless curious—braved the Makati traffic sometime in May to have a taste of what iVegan offers.
iVegan is in the upper basement of LPL Tower in Legaspi Village, just opposite Greenbelt and beside a tiny space that sells bagels. It’s easy to miss this spot if not for the small outdoor signage that points you to take the short stairs to where the restaurant is. Its main building is easy to locate on Grab but if you’re planning on bringing your car, there’s ample parking space from nearby malls.
For appetizers, we warmed up our belly with Summer Spring Rolls (P240), a colorful plate of shreds of cucumbers, carrots, and red bell peppers, paired with mango and avocado, and wrapped in a translucent rice paper. The vegetables are crunchy, owing to the freshness of the ingredients that iVegan sources from local markets. A faster way to eat salad, fresh spring rolls are best paired with Vietnamese peanut sauce that echoes the sweetness of the mango. Except for the king oyster and portobello mushrooms, iVegan obtains all its raw ingredients from local suppliers fresh every morning. But the ultimate goal is to adopt a farm-to-table menu that will please its customers with organically grown ingredients, while benefiting local farmers.
Next, we delved into iVegan’s version of Gyoza (P290), a play on shiitake mushrooms and tofu to recreate the beloved Chinese dish. The dumplings are stuffed with ginger and cilantro, which may overwhelm your tastebuds on first bite. While gyozas are often treated as a precursor to the main dish, we recommend devouring these in between something sweet to even out the pungent kick.
Mushroom is a staple in replicating the taste of meat in most vegan dishes and this prized ingredient has again found its use in iVegan’s version of Scallop (P280). This time, the recipe used king oyster mushroom to mimic the buttery and mildly sweet flavor of the shellfish. The result is a serving of bite-sized seared mushrooms sitting on dollops of pesto sauce and flecked with tomatoes and onions. It was a missed opportunity not to pair this dish with wine.
Next, we set our eyes on the two mains in our spread: Mushroom Tempeh Sisig (P590) and Kare-Kare (P490). Instead of pork bits and chicken liver, iVegan’s version of sisig uses king oyster mushroom, tofu, and tempeh (fermented soybeans) as meat. It is more chewy than crunchy, a nod to the Kapampangan origin of this beloved dish where pork fat is generously used. Excluding the lack of sizzle, iVegan’s sisig successfully imitates the dish with the right amount of umami and acidity.
But the star of our feast was kare-kare, a classic Filipino stew featuring a rich and thick peanut sauce and a medley of vegetables such as eggplant, string beans, and bok choy. iVegan topped a bowl of this dish with a generous serving of field oyster mushrooms, dunked in butter coating and deep fried into perfection. The mushrooms are juicy, crunchy, and can easily pass off as chicharon. You will feel the juice (and oil) being squeezed out of the mushroom as you sink your teeth into the faux meat.
iVegan also has a selection of burgers and sandwiches and we were able to try their Black Bean Burger (P360). The beans are dried out and formed into a patty, which is then grilled and sandwiched between buns. It is impressive how the patty remains intact and not at all crumbly, which is a common problem for homemade vegan burgers. Packing a juicy and slightly garlicky taste, this meal camouflages the flavors of a carnivore burger. Just be warned that munching on the roasted sweet potato side dish is hard to resist.
For dessert, we had scoops of Pitaya Acai (P220), the sliced seasonal fruits glistening under the yellow lights. Red dragon fruit, mango, acai berry, chia seeds, and roasted almond nuts rest on a smoothie base and are sprinkled with cacao nibs and mint leaves for a well-rounded healthy treat that will tickle your buds with sweet and sour tastes and fleshy and crunchy textures. The acai berry is a superfood containing antioxidants and shares the same taste profile as blueberries and strawberries.
iVegan’s hidden spot in the basement of a building shields it from the hi-way’s noisy traffic, which means limited distractions if you opt to dine in. Upon entering, you’ll find the three-seater sofas opposite tables on your right and the wooden cushioned chairs on your left. They also have a small conference room that can fit up to 10 people. A long countertop separates the dining area and the kitchen, with the upside-down wine glass rack as the main aesthetic pull of the place.
This is the only iVegan branch in Metro Manila, but plans are underway to open another outlet by next year in Quezon City or southern Metro Manila. iVegan also recently unveiled its counterpart in Singapore, where its founder is based. Another branch in the Lion City is set to open this year.
iVegan’s extensive menu encompassing all-day breakfast items to desserts makes it a verifiable one-stop shop for non-meat eaters in the city. And even those who are wary of going meatless will find some comfort in what iVegan offers. Unlike other meat-free restos that replicate traditional protein by employing processed alternatives, iVegan uses all-natural ingredients and creates everything from scratch. It also attempts to debunk common misconceptions about veganism such as going meat-free is boring, requires too much effort, and pricey. Its mains are no more than P600 and can be shared by two to three people, while its desserts are under P230 and vegan wraps from P360. We recommend iVegan’s Summer Spring Rolls (P240), Kare-Kare (P490), Black Bean Burger (P360), and Pitaya Acai (P220). The restaurant also offers black rice, quinoa, and gluten-free bread, and has a wide selection of coffee, smoothies, tea, and beer.
iVegan is located in the upper basement of B&D LPL Tower, 112 Legaspi Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City. It is open for dine-in everyday from 10 AM to 10 PM, and accepts delivery via GrabFood and Lalamove for those outside Makati. To know more about what they offer, check out their website, or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
This food review is based on a complimentary media tasting provided by iVegan in exchange for a truthful review and no compensation. The opinions expressed within represent the views of the author.
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