Affordable veggie meals
Think hospital food and you will think twice about ordering. But at the Manila Adventist Medical Center and Colleges Inc. (formerly the Manila Sanitarium and Hospital) cafeteria, you are in for a nice surprise. This purely vegetarian eatery goes beyond the usual pinakbet and lettuce-and-tomato salads. The nutritionists and dietitians manning its kitchen and counters have found innovative ways to cook their greens.
The food offered behind the sanitized glass counters is really quite imaginative. You can choose from among unusual items such as the slightly spicy Garbanzos Menudo, just-right-to-the-bite Tofu Kilawin, and the filling Kidney Beans Guisado. The Mushroom Rebosado can stand to be a little crispier, but the veggie burgers and pizzas are guilt-free ways to have your “meat” and eat it too. The cafeteria also carries soups and desserts that are light and right. The great thing about these healthy items is that they are msg-free.
Another impressive thing about this cafeteria is their emphasis on wholistic health. According to the hospital’s director for marketing, Dr. Ian Kenneth C. Bermeo, the caf does not serve sodas, coffee, or artificial juices. At the end of the food queue, you will be greeted by a container of buko pandan or a fruity gulaman juice. Hot tarragon tea is also available for those who want to warm up. Then, as you pay for your order, another surprise is in order. The prices are so affordable, that a two-viand and one-cup-of-rice combo will set you back by only P75.
There are also wholesome breads that you can take home for the kiddies. The wheatgerm cookies make the perfect pasalubong, because they deliver the right amount for crunch without the cloying sweetness and the excess calories. The cinnamon bread is their best-seller, according to Bermeo, and with good reason. This cinnamon loaf is wheat-bread based, less sweet but more flavorful — because it is not smothered in sticky syrup, you get more of the cinnamon taste.
A taste of history
The cafeteria itself is a refreshing sight. It came as a surprise when Bermeo revealed that the eatery has been around since the 1920’s, making it probably the oldest existing vegetarian restaurant in the country. The venue is brightly-lit, modern, and very conducive for light, leisurely meals. You will forget the fact that you are right smack at the lower ground of a high-traffic hospital in Pasay City.
“This restaurant has been open to the public, and we get a lot of people here who are not just Adventists or vegetarians. The focus here is on good and healthy food. Many of the customers are not only from the hospitals, some come from the nearby bus stations, and those who just want to enjoy a wholesome meal,” says Bermeo.
The cafeteria has become so popular, that there are plans of building another restaurant within the same complex to accommodate the students of their nearby college.