I'd had thoughts of wanting to be a tourist guide or have my own travel agency when I started this blog but put those plans aside because I had a different and crazy idea from the norm. Maybe I'm not exposed much, but I only ever saw my idea coming to life somewhat like those of what Daniel Gray of SeoulEats.com and Sachiko-san (of Japan) do. I never thought I could pull it off with a lot of help and fun haha. One fine day, a reader from the US said that he was coming here and plans for a day out started spiralling from there. I dragged J and my friend D out for a no-exact-plan Manila tour with Jordan and Jeremy hihi. We ended up having a wonderful food trip in Quezon City - showing them our childhood favorites, college snacks, partying (without the alcohol), just chillin' out and crossing out some stuff from their must-try list. We let them in our kind of Manila local experience and showed them the perks & quirks that came with having us as friends (that they just met) =D For private Manila tours like these, please don't hesitate to contact me through the form LOL.
Since there was traffic that day to downtown Manila, D suggested to take them to UP (University of the Philippines Diliman) coz we were looking for street food (and well it was her alma mater..)! We met around 5 p.m. and drove them to the parking lot near the Asian Institute. They got to try isaw et al, dirty ice cream and taho =) We were actually looking for balut and found one at night at another location (watch Jordan's first time to try balut video at the bottom of this post) because it was so hard to find one now in our area. We also walked a bit and showed them the oval - where Jeremy can run or chill during weekends if ever he gets tired of working as an expat in Makati hehe.
After all of that food... we headed to Van Gogh is Bipolar. If you've read my favorite Guiltless Restaurant Picks and Date Places in Manila post, it's been there for a long time already since 2010 =D With our luck, the place was just opening again that night and we got walk-in seats! I don't know who was the lucky charm but J and I have been trying to eat here twice and failed (and there was just 2 of us!) haha. What's more is that they were offering a set meal for half the price at P666 per person O_O See, see?! Haha.
The Van Gogh is Bipolar restaurant has been called unusual, unique-themed and weird by foreign online sites. I personally fell in love with the concept and the place (Jetro Rafael's home) at first sight a number of years ago. I truly appreciated the owner's openness to have guests in his home and share with us what has worked for him through the years.
It's not only the Cuckoo Diet. It's the way the whole place is managed and the certain rules that you have to abide by when you're here as a guest in this house. I was able to let go of my expectations of how a restaurant should be, how I need to be treated as a customer, how we interact with people and how we view ourselves.
The menu changes every once in a while and even the set ones sometimes change (at least according to my very first experience). I find time slipping away and my worries fading when I go here. Only around 10 people are allowed inside at a time. Get a hint, be quiet and also take off your shoes as you enter this sanctuary. Waiting is also normal since it takes time to create something wonderful.
It's self-service so if you order tea, just fill your teapot with these. There are soothers and uppers according to the label. You're also supposed to get your own food when you're name is called.
We just followed suit and grabbed wigs and hats from all over the place for our Mad Hatter party haha. Remember to return them.
We were a group of 5 so we got seats outside. I'm so glad there are tables now. I remember before there were only floor cushions.
I've always wanted to come back to VGIB for this... Hehe. Jennifer Love-Hewitt's Love Potion! It's one of the best drinks in the planet and they don't tell the exact mix (they vary anyway). The stuff on the menu are named after famous people who have bipolar disorder. The owner is said to be bipolar also and his Cuckoo diet are designed to make you Happy & Calm =D
We talked the night away and got to know each other better. They couldn't believe we brought them here haha.
All our inhibitions and shyness disappear and our fun side emerged as we hung out more. No alcohol, we promise =D
This place is one of the few places where I get to be myself and so at ease for some reason in Manila.
The turkey soup came out next. I'm not a fan of turkey but this bowl was just right - like it was created for me especially on that night. I remember the first time I met Jetro... He came to our table and told us to try the black mountain rice. He said something like, "Eat it, it will make you happy." and it did. I wasn't sure if it was the corn, nuts, rice or everything that was just put together perfectly. In a way, he made me more mindful of the things I eat that day and food was there to nourish both our body and soul.
The next thing that came out was the lamb. We had a choice of salmon too but I don't like salmon and I was suuuper glad I got this 1-person dish. It was a night of revelations as I learned that they served organic food in this restaurant - straight from Jetro's farm in Isabela. Oh, what a wonderful discovery, especially with my heightened awareness now of organic food thanks to the tours with the ATI (Agricultural Training Institute of the Philippine Department of Agriculture) =D Anyway, I didn't know what to eat first because it was all so good so I mixed them together! Haha. The salad was divine and the pasta was the perfect complement to the 3-way cooked tender lamb! Jetro said that this was the first time he made the lamb like this (grilled, baked and pan-fried I think...). We were all pretty silent and lost in our own worlds as we consumed everything in our plates!
I loved the little note cards hanging everywhere. It reminded me to keep grounded and just let myself go.
Even Jeremy was not fazed with lots of shoes hanging near his face. There was really a difference from the first moment we met him a few hours back. He was so relaxed and just enjoying the moment.
Even big-time actors like Alessandra de Rossi and Sid Lucero (who introduced himself as Timmy) were there to help out. Imagine my surprise when they were serving the first time I was here. All I could do was try hard not to stare, squeal like a crazed fan and keep my mouth closed then say, "Thank you" haha. Well, they deserve to be treated normally and enjoy their time there also. The masked guy on the piano I couldn't recognize but he played the piano well =) They were inside so I really want to get a table inside next time! Haha.
Please excuse the apron. I really didn't notice it until I uploaded the pics but this was a fan moment. Big, big fan of Ms. de Rossi hihi.
How could I not have this fan moment? Thank you for opening your home and sharing the Cuckoo diet with us!!! You cook and make the most magical things! Can I have some more, please??? =D
Since this day was opening night, we got Banana Coconut ice candy as bonus! So we taught Jordan and Jeremy how to eat this childhood treat. Hehe.
After that, we went to the footbridge near Miriam and Ateneo and found Balut! Haha.
Here's the video link to their Balut Adventure =)
To Jordan and Jeremy,
It was nice to meet you both and we hope to see you again in Manila and wherever you may be around the world! Like us, take the experience with you and extend it to your life. =) Remember - "You need a little bit of insanity to do Great Things."
Meloy, D and J
Meloy, D and J