There’s a common misconception that healthy food is unappetising and being a vegetarian or vegan means restricting yourself to boring dishes and depriving yourself of flavorful meals.
In the Philippines, thanks to dining outlets like Corner Tree Cafe, healthy eating at restaurants is now more convenient. This neighborhood café offers an extensive selection of comfort vegetarian and vegan creations that even meat eaters love – from Asian dishes to African, European, Middle Eastern, and American cuisine. They also serve wines, local beers, and some house cocktails. As such, Corner Tree Cafe has a good mixture of customers, from locals to expatriates, yogis, businessmen, students, families, and celebrities to plain healthy eaters. “Sometimes, there are different groups of men, which is great because people thought vegetarian is more for women. Men come here and they love it! And that’s why we also serve wine and beer because I want it to be a regular restaurant and just present the food as great, healthy comfort food,” said owner Chiqui Mabanta.
“So if you want to enjoy your meal with beer or wine, you can have it. There’s no judging. What’s wrong with wine? Some people have these preconceived ideas of what a vegetarian restaurant should be, and I want to kind of break all that. I didn’t want it to be like preachy. I wanted it to be a cozy restaurant with wine, beer, dessert, coffee. Just meatless.”
Chiqui’s concept started in the mid to late ‘90s when she made trips to London to visit her sister, a vegetarian. “I saw how different the vegetarian world was and I got excited by that. My reasons for getting into vegetarian food were more about the cuisine more than anything because it was unexplored here. It was a whole new world for me. Later on, I realized it had a lot more benefits than just the cuisine. It’s ethical to the animals, to the planet, and to our health. For me, it was not even about that yet. It was uncharted territory, and it’s really an exciting cuisine for me.”
Chiqui wanted the Corner Tree Café to be a stepping stone for Filipinos who were never exposed to vegetarian food, so she put eggs and dairy in the menu. Inspired by what she saw in the restaurants she visited overseas, she set up a similar concept of a vegetarian restaurant with a lot of vegan options.
“And I think I hit the right combination of menu because many people-and about 80 percent of our customers-are meat eaters, not really vegetarians, but they like the food.”
What makes their dishes so flavourful? “We use quality ingredients. And no MSG for sure! We use natural seasoning. We use vegetables that are organic as much as possible. Even our dairy products, some of them are from local organic farms. We use organic red rice. It’s just a nice change for people.” Chiqui also shared that preparing each dish involves a lot of steps. “That’s why the food is so good!
There are a lot of subrecipes in each menu.” Yet she admitted it is more complex to run their kitchen than a regular kitchen because they serve not just one type of cuisine. “First of all, there are like 600 ingredients in the kitchen. And for one dish, we have to sauté something, steam something, or prepare a sauce. It’s actually a very complicated kitchen.” But when it comes to hygiene, she said vegetarian kitchen is easier to manage.
“For me, a vegetarian kitchen feels nicer because it has good vibes. There’s no blood. Now that I’m into vegetarian food, I’m more sensitive to that. And now I see meat as dead animals packaged in plastic. Now that I’m exposed to the vegetarian world, I become more sensitive to it.” Interestingly, they use kangen water in their first branch in Jupiter Street in Makati City. Kangen is an innovative water technology that filters the tap water and produces ionized alkaline and acidic waters. They use the ionized alkaline or oxygenated water for drinking while the acidic water is ideal for food preparation and cleaning. This dining corner in Makati City serves dishes that are good not just for the body but for the planet as well.
CORNER TREE CAFÉ
150 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air, Makati City, Philippines
Tel : +63 2 897-0295
Cell : +63 906 558-6177
3rd Floor Power Plant Mall (new wing), Rockwell, Makati City, Philippines
Cell : +63 906 530-9721