Creativity has become the calling card of Pino, one of the longstanding establishments in Malingap Street. Chef Ed Bugia’s flagship restaurant, which has since branched out in Jupiter Street in Makati, serves imaginative renditions of Filipino favorites and it’s not hard to see why people have been flocking here since it opened around five years ago.
That creativity is also on display in Pipino, Pino’s vegan offshoot serving natural, plant-based dishes. Diners can cross-order between the menu of Pino and Pipino, so dining out gets easier when you’re with friends who don’t eat meat.
Which is why we choose this place to celebrate my birthday with Joseph and Dave, who are in the last week of their vegan fast.
The space is minimalist, with a wall containing artwork typical of the neighborhood’s playfully artistic tendencies. The space is small, since it shares the same building with some of Bugia’s other restaurants, and it can get crowded at peak hours.
Pino’s dishes – Filipino comfort food with amusing twists – all sound tempting.
The Mini Sisig Tacos is the bestseller among the starters, and a battalion of them arrives in a large plate, suffocated in shredded cheese and blankets of lettuce. The tacos are really addictive, with the crunchy shells contrasting nicely with the tender meat. An order can serve two or three people easily, but since I’m the only one eating meat among us three, I eat only two and have the rest bagged.
Then I have the Kare-Kare Bagnet for the main affair. This is Pino’s take on the traditional Filipino stew, but instead of the usual oxtail for the base, there are pieces of deep-fried pork belly that is a popular Ilocano fare. The bagnet comes in a lake of peanut sauce, each slab of protein as golden as the liquid it sits on. A dollop of bagoong, eggplant slices, string beans and leaves of pechay accompany the meat. It’s comfort food at its finest.
Pipino’s menu is equally creative, with a line-up of dishes that, at the very least, pique diners’ curiosity. Dave settles for the Eggplant and Tofu Miso, which, while filling, tastes like the standard vegetarian fare.
Joseph orders the Vegetable Curry that comes with slabs of tofu and couscous. It sounds bland but actually tastes great, with the curry and couscous providing a delightful Middle Eastern/Mediterranean flair.
Pino and Pipino have been around in the area for some time and the fact that they are still going strong speaks volume on the success of Bugia’s inventiveness. Despite the playful alterations, both restaurants provide an easygoing vibe and accessible takes on Filipino comfort food, which draw diners looking for new possibilities.
Pino / Pipino
39 Malingap St., Teacher’s Village – East,
(another branch in Jupiter St., Makati City)
(02) 441 1773