A bright sunny Saturday (a break from all the rain!) and curiosity for a vegetarian ramen place brought me to the Collective.
What used to be a warehouse along Malugay Street in the business district of Makati and transformed a couple of years ago is now a low-rent space where it seems many of the young and creatively-inclined set in the area have opened several shops and restaurants.
Being a resident of Quezon City (which isn’t exactly close to Makati especially when you consider traffic-congested EDSA in between), I hardly venture to Makati unless it’s for work or it’s a place easily accessible by the MRT (hello, Buendia and Ayala Stations!). When I heard of the Collective years ago from some friends, I’ve always been curious to see the place. How was it similar and/or different from Quezon City’s Cubao X?
For fellow not-too-hip folks who are also late to the party, don’t expect the Collective to be anything like the usual shiny malls of Makati. It used to be an industrial space and remnants of that are still visible–at least what’s not covered in striking, colorful graffiti, some curious boutiques, or interesting restaurants.
Aside from the hip and artsy stores, what it has in common with Cubao X when the QC haunt came alive almost a decade ago (has it been that long?) is that you could tell it’s the kind of place that also comes alive in the evening. So when we get there at lunch time, everything is quiet. Save for a fashion shoot happening. Most of the activity are found within the restaurants by the entrance of the compound. And an hour later a crew would start setting up in the middle of the space for an after-party of an indie movie in the evening. I imagine the place would be substantially less quiet and more crowded by then.
Now back to the vegetarian joint. It wasn’t among the restos by the entrance. We took one of the few narrow hallways in the compound and found it. Wabi-Sabi. It’s not exclusively a ramen joint. It’s a no-frills vegetarian noodle house that serves meatless versions of pho, shoyu ramen, and miso ramen. We entered right before another couple, who got there it seems just a few minutes before the three women staff came in. While they prepped in their small and modest open kitchen, we stared at the menu scrawled on the chalkboard and ordered by the counter.
You can see that the food is cheap. We ordered Shoyu Ramen as recommended by a friend and Viet Pho (Miso Ramen was not available). For starters we had the Veggie Cracklings (Wabi-Sabi’s vegetarian version of chicharon or pork cracklings) and pot stickers.
The shoyu ramen broth was surprisingly flavorful and the mock meat tasted so much better than it looked. Downside: most of the noodles stuck to each other in clumps. It’s not going to give any Japanese ramen a run for its money, but it was okay and I wouldn’t mind having it again. (Along with the banh mi and kuapau the next time around.) P didn’t enjoy his pho at all. I think the meat-lover in him still searched for the flavor of simmered beef bones in the light broth. The pot stickers are better. The veggie cracklings had almost the same crunch as chicharon but it was quite salty. (The best vegetarian chicharon I’ve had was in Bliss Cafe, but it’s all the way up in Baguio.)
Next door to Wabi-Sabi is Kaffir, which calls itself a Southeast Asian restaurant and deli. A picture of chicken satay on its door almost tempted me to have a second round of lunch. And I wanted to try its Green Monggo Lassi. (Any reader who stumbles upon this blog and has eaten in Kaffir, let me know if it’s any good.)
Most of the stores were still closed, but one of the few that was opened was Ritual.
Of the two places I wanted to see at the Collective–it was Wabi-Sabi and this eco-conscious store that sold fair-trade local goods. There was organic fine sea salt from Ilocos Norte, bars of tablea (our local chocolate), personal care products made of indigenous herbs and plants, favorite Filipino condiments, organic Arabica and Robusta coffee beans as well as civet coffee beans, organic rice, and local artisanal beer. So many things to buy…we ended up buying beer.
There are tables and chairs outside Ritual, so you can actually drink your booze there. But there is a bar just a few meters away, B-Side. There are more restaurants in Collective I’m curious to try. Another friend recommends Wingman. Mochiko is a mochi place that has lovely ice-cream filled mochi. There are so many reasons to come back. Preferably still around lunch, on a sunny Saturday.
How to get to the Collective: If you’re taking a car, take Gil Puyat from EDSA, turn right at Chino Roces, turn left at Yakal St., turn left at Mayapis, and turn left along Malugay. The Collective should be on your right. There are very few parking spaces in front. Even though it was a slow lunch time, we ended up parking by the side of road. I can only imagine the traffic and parking situation on a Friday or Saturday night. If you’re taking public transportation, take a jeep or bus that will pass by Gil Puyat, go down the corner of Gil Puyat and Chino Roces (the opposite side of McDonald’s). Walk along Chino Roces and turn left at the first corner, Malugay Street. Collective should be on your left.