Any adventurer on the lookout for Planet Gastronomy (if there ever was such a place) should head straight to VASK. This state-of-the-art food + dessert + drinks paradise offers diners different ways to experience each and every thing that they love. VASK encompasses the entirety of the fifth floor of Clipp Center in BGC, spanning out to four different areas, namely the VASK Dining Room, the Gallery Vask, Curve, and Deck.
The Dining Room is an artsy setting where diners can enjoy Chef Jose Luis ‘Chele’ Gonzales’ amazing kitchen creations. Cuisine served highlights the dishes of northern Spain, giving emphasis to the modern and traditional flavours of the Basque region; the best of both worlds. After a brief tour or Chef Chele’s kitchen, this was where we sat to dig in on the menu offerings especially prepared for us.
In typical Spanish tradition, the meal began with a serving of pintxos (small bites). VASK currently offers five varieties, my favourites of which were the Salmon and Crab Tartar (P95) and the Wagyu – Baked Eggplant – Tximichurri (P95). We then moved on to a series of starter dishes such as croquettes and light seafood dishes. I particularly enjoyed the Rabas (P395), deep fried squid served with the most amazing basil mayonnaise dip I have had. The Crispy Shrimp (P495) was a play on taste and texture in combination with the jamon iberico, a tandem of which I found myself quite fond of.
The Wagyu Carpaccio was a true mouth-watering delight. The thin slices of beef were served with parmesan ice cream and pine nuts, the latter two of which really brought out the unique concept of the dish with regards to ingredients and flavour.
The Huevos con Txistorra (P290) was a mix of all the best things in the world in one small but richly textured bowl: soft, tender Sous Vide egg, chistorra chorizo, breadcrumbs, dates mushroom, and the all-magical truffle oil. Partaking of all five components in a single mouthful can only be described as… well, having a party in my mouth.
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I was nearly full to the brim by the time the main dishes rolled around, but I did not want to pass on the chance to try more of VASK’s gastronomic delights. The Atun Crujiente, somewhat unusual and pleasantly palatable, is a sushi-esque dish of crispy tuna with caramelised onion, foie gras and black sesame. It was definitely one of the crowd pleasers of the night.
The Cochinillo (P2,750 for a quarter), a lechon de leche baby pig, was so, so tender that it was almost unbelievable. Whatever layer of fat there was in that dish melted away so quickly that I felt as if I’d imagined the whole experience. Another favourite of mine is the Tenderloin (). The meat was served perfectly medium rare with the odd sweetness of the beet root and the smoky flavour of the bacon mashed potato serving as the best complements possible.
We then moved on to the Gallery Vask, Chef Chele’s venue for showcasing his superb skills in creation as well as presentation. This Spanish chef from Santander, famous for his attention to detail and ability to combine modern techniques with Asian perspectives, worked in some of the best restaurants in the world before laying his tracks down in Manila.
Gallery Vask offers degustation and currently has two: Emotions Menu (P3,200/head, 9 Courses) and Carluccio Menu (P4,900/head, 14 Courses). For this particular demonstration, he revealed to us his technique in creating his take on two well-loved Filipino desserts. The creation of the Palm Crisp (coconut sorbet, included in both Emotions and Carluccio Menu) involves quite a bit of smoke (literally) and mirrors, rendering us awed as the cream solidifies into a tangible treat that cleanses the palate. I also enjoyed learning the story of Chef Chele’s special Taho (goat's milk tofu, caramel tapioca, ginger syrup; included in Carluccio Menu). It is created using slightly different ingredients from what we are used to. The dessert was served to us in a large test tube, with the decorative souvenir cootie-catcher hanging from its faux rock stand summarising its inception.
There were more food and drinks to be had at Curve (open from 6:30pm onwards), the beautiful, strange otherworld-like lounge that made me want to pack my bags and move in. This lounge is home to sophisticated odds and ends designed by artists and local celebrities. I found myself deeply enamoured with pieces such as the teddy bear-laden glass table, awkward chairs with high-heeled feet and crutches, and white umbrella ceiling fixtures.
By the time the real dessert had rolled around, I was truly and contentedly stuffed. Still, I was summoned by the call of the tangy and the tart, because all desserts served that night were an excellent combination of sweet and sour. Select favourites were the Calamansi Tart (calamansi tart with cheese ice cream) and the Deconstructed Lemon Cake (P295) (pistachio sponge, golden bicuits, Greek yoghurt and lemon custard).
VASK is also host to an outdoor area with a spectacular cityscape view called the Deck. This is the perfect venue to enjoy drinks on a cold night. Drinks I particularly enjoyed were the La Reina (P320), a strong full-bodied mix of Earl Grey vanilla infused vodka, triple sec and apple liqueur, and the refreshing Costa del Sol (P320), a citrusy drink with triple sec, fresh kiwi and cucumber and Mountain Dew.
Another fun drink is the Bilbao (P320), a tribute to Andy Warhol served in a Campbell's mug. This semi-sweet, semi-bitter drink is a dark mix of Jack Daniel’s, sweet martini, orgeat syrup and Pepsi.
VASK is the true no-man’s land for dining adventurers. It is easy to lose oneself and indulge in all the sophisticated comforts that this artsy setting has to offer, making you feel as if you have reached the pinnacle of the Gastronomy Tower (again, if there was ever such a place).
Vask Modern Tapas & Gastronomic Cuisine is located at the 5th floor of the CLIPP Center, 11th Avenue corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City. For reservations and inquiries, call (632) 217 6563 and 0917 806 5292 (11am to 8:30pm, Monday to Saturday). Like Vask on Facebook (VaskManila) and Follow on Instagram (@VaskManila).