“This is the sous vide tuna, ma’am, with caramelized onion and Piquillo pepper,” the waiter said as he served my Pintxos (pinchos), or “toasted bread” with savory toppings.
These are like tapas. The menu offers other Pintxos: jamon with parmesan mousse, eggplant with quail egg, curried prawns with green asparagus. The offering of Basque specialties is, I surmise, the basis for calling the restaurant Vask—a twist on Basque. Like The Goose Station of Rob Pengson and Sunshine Puey, it is a twist on “degustation.”
“What’s the main specialty of the chef, aside from the Pintxos?” I asked the waiter. “Our chef José Luis Gonzalez specializes in gastronomic cuisine,” he said.
I was tempted to challenge him: “Isn’t all cuisine gastronomic?” But, he explained, “For example, the chicken is cooked sous vide. The chef puts it in a plastic bag and then places it in boiling water.” Aaah. (The chef has been built up as a master of molecular gastronomy, having worked at El Bulli.)
The restaurant is still on soft opening and the chef is expected to put more items on the menu by next month. Gastronomic creations, I gathered.
As I was biting into the gastronomic tuna, the entire door leading to the veranda crumbled. Yup, crumbled, crashed, fell to pieces. Just like you see in the movies. It felt like a scene right out of 007 or “Charlie’s Angels.”
After a quick once-over of the room and confirming in my head that I wasn’t being shot at and that everyone was okay, I took a bite of the tuna. Mmmmm, good! It was sweet, thanks to the caramelized onions with just a pinch of spice, like a wink. Absolutely gastronomic.
The girls nearest the glass door moved to a table to my right, after dismissing the waiter’s explanation that the door crashed because of the wind. The wind! They sat down to continue their meal, this time each with a glass of red. Stress begone.
Meanwhile I dove into a very bland Tortillas de Patata with Chorizo. “They’re on soft opening,” I reminded myself as I asked for pepper. “You can’t criticize the food—or your safety—just yet!”
“Sorry about that,” the handsome Spanish maitre d’ with penetrating eyes apologized for the crumbling door. “No problem,” I replied, smiling. “But you should sue your decorator!”
In fact the interiors are charming. There’s Darth Vader saying hello as you get out of the elevator. There’s a reindeer lamp made of vintage paper on a wall. And a giant mouse figurine near the door that crashed, proving that rats survive anything.
It’s no wonder this is the latest hot spot in town. “Sino na ang nanggaling dito?” I asked the waiter. “A lot of Class A persons, ma’am … Senators, celebrities.”
Sinong senator? “Alan Peter Cayetano, ma’am.” Binoto mo ba siya? “Uh, no, ma’am,” the waiter chuckled. “Ang dami po kasi, hindi ko na nahanap pangalan niya.”
Sino’ng binoto mo? “Yung pinakamagalang na senator po, si Grace Poe.”
The crowd—at least the gastronomes—are enticed by the credentials of the chef. Vask has gotten hype by word of mouth as the restaurant of the chef who has worked at Arzak and Mugaritz and, of course, El Bulli (hailed the World’s Best Restaurant for several years).
The Black Ink Risotto is praiseworthy, albeit with tempered flavors, with its beautifully cooked scallops and the gentle touch of saltiness as the parmesan chip crumbles. It is not unlike what you find in other starred restaurants abroad.
But the sous vide chicken is just that. Carlo Miguel, who has also explored molecular gastronomy without the El Bulli training, can give Mr. Gonzalez and his chicken a run for his money, I bet.
Yet there are items that truly make you smile. The leche frita is simple yet delightful—its timid outer crust sprinkled with sugar protecting the ever-so-soft leche underneath. The side of chocolate-rum ice cream is oh-so-heavenly.
As it is, the restaurant is less than sterling. Somewhere between casual and fine, the stellar standards of the Michelin were lost. Hopefully, by the time the restaurant formally opens, the menu—and the doors—will be outstanding and secure.
I’ll be back to check, for sure. Perhaps on a windy day, hopefully to my delight and not at the risk of my life!
P.S. The service was great.
Vask is at 5/F, 11th Ave. and 39th St. (near The Goose Station), Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; tel. 0915-5077047. Major credit cards accepted.