Viewed from outside, Sunshine Place on Jupiter Street in Makati looks like any other office building. Since this recreation center for seniors opened, however, it has become a venue for those 50 years old and above to make friends, exercise and express their artistic creativity.
There is a salon (Vivify), a spa (Foot Zone) on the upper floors and—for the past seven months—a restaurant on the ground floor with a charming, garden-like setting.
The Bizu Groupe, led by chair and CEO Annabel Tanco, took over the space after the original tenant, another restaurant, moved out.
“When I first saw the indoor garden at the back of the room, I said to myself, ‘Why not bring the garden inside?’” Tanco recalled. Thus began the happy task of recreating a garden using flower pots and metal planters, rustic wood tables and trailing ivy.
In front of the restaurant is a flower shop where customers can buy cut flowers and foliage.
Tanco credited Teresita “Tessie” Sy-Coson, vice chair of SM Investments Corp. (SMIC), for coming up with the current look of the space. Sunshine Place is a project of the Felicidad Sy Foundation, named after Coson’s mother.
“Tessie continues to visit every so often to spruce up the place, add little touches to make it more inviting,” Tanco said.
The food had to be a reflection of the interiors, but Tanco, who is known for the sweet and calorie-laden desserts at Bizu, decided to offer healthier fare.
“I wanted to bring the farm to the city by offering simple, comfort food with an Asian bent,” she said.
Items in the updated menu use salad greens like fresh arugula for the tasty Scotch Eggs; pumpkin for the soup flavored with cocoa and blue cheese, or tossed into a salad with lettuce, apples and walnuts; and cauliflower rice paired with Korean beef bibimbap.
Cauliflower rice, made by pulsing the vegetable and quickly sauteing it, is not new but is perfect for those trying to limit their carbohydrate intake. An earlier version served in the restaurant remains one of its bestsellers.
“Our initial target market consisted of members of Sunshine Place, but now we’re getting families and office workers as well. We also sell gluten- and dairy-free cakes and pastries,” Tanco said.
Getting the right combination of bean, almond and rice flours, however, took over a year to perfect.
“Too much rice flour made the batter too sticky, too little left it dry. We experimented using different ratios until we found one that resulted in a cake that looked and tasted good,” she said.
Some of the other new dishes introduced this week include Truffle Mushroom Pizza, Arroz Caldo with Salted Duck Egg, Malagos Chocolate Champorado, Lamb Bolognese and Pork Ball Sandwich.
There are even a couple of freshly squeezed juices sweetened with stevia and made with either red or green ingredients.
Tanco is particularly proud of the restaurant’s champorado that uses arborio, the same rice used to make Italian risotto. This bowl of Pinoy comfort food is then topped with a danggit tuile (thin cookie with bits of dried fish) that offers diners a jolt of sweet and salty.
She liked it so much she will sell the danggit cookies in cylindrical packs at the takeout counter.
Happy Garden Café by Bizu Groupe, 56 Jupiter St., Sunshine Place, Barangay Bel-Air Village in Makati is open daily, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Call 2610115.