Friday, June 19, 2009

Oh My Gulay

Walking down Session Road, I was distracted from the items on display at the ukay-ukay stalls that seem to proliferate in Baguio by an interesting work of art at my feet. The length of the side walk was made up of rows and columns of tiny squares the color of old clay pots chafed by pedestrian activity and soused in the early afternoon rain. Right at the heart of it was a mosaic made conspicuous because the pieces were slick, almost liquid, amid the drab clay-pot tiles. My friends and I entered the building that claimed it, passing over the restaurants and other businesses that seemed incongruent to the artwork out front. I climbed up until my knees threatened to give out, and came face-to-face with a gallery/restaurant that promised even more brilliant creations than the heart of the sidewalk. Although I was expecting a name with more drama than "Oh My Gulay"--- it struck me as being too tacky--- I concede that at the very least it is appropriate, because the restaurant served no meat. Despite being a meat-eater, I was excited to see what the menu could offer that would satisfy my hunger. There weren't too many choices--- a few appetizers, pasta dishes, sandwiches and desserts--- but it was still difficult to choose because they all sounded (the pictures were not appetizing in the least) delicious. Well, maybe with the exception of the OMG salad which was described as having "assorted market vegetables".

My friends and I finally decided on anak ng puttanesca, pasta prima donna, talong parmigiana and the OMG salad. Of the four, my hands-down favorite would be the talong parmigiana. It's an open-faced sandwich served in a big, shallow bowl, with perfectly-grilled slices of eggplant on top of crusty bread, bathed in sweet tomato sauce and a sprinkling of herbs and cheese. It was a generous enough serving, filling in spite of the absence of meat and my customary cup (or two) of rice. The "assorted market vegetables" of the salad were crisp and cool to the palate; the mustard and herb vinaigrette in tart contrast to the subtle sweetness of the fresh salad greens. Though the pasta prima donna was served in meager portions, it looked delicious and tasted even better. The pasta was the color of sunshine, clean and pure with a liberal dusting of parmesan and tossed with golden young corn, cauliflower, baguio beans, bell peppers, onions and, I'm guessing, some parsley.

We tackled our food with implacable relish, coming up for air only to marvel at the breathtaking view of Baguio in a shroud of rain and to glance, surprised, at various sculptures throughout that were hardly noticeable because they seemed to blend homogeneously with the interior. We walked around the gallery after lunch, but the room which housed the pieces that were supposedly for sale was empty. There were steps made of thick, asymmetrical slabs of wood that led from one mezzanine level to another, with the longest flight connecting the topmost level to the ground floor in a serpentine fashion. All the levels were designed to have a good view of the stage on the first floor, where musicians were setting up their instruments presumably to give customers a treat later in the day. Adjacent to the stage was a small pond with a bridge traversing its breadth. There were plants surrounding it, providing a softer, more natural-looking niche for a pond that, in different circumstances, would have looked out of place in a building of hard rock and aged wood.

On the whole, the spectacular view from the terrace, the whimsical design of the interior, the ambrosial menu offerings complemented by the chilly air and laid-back charm that is the city's trademark are compelling reasons to pack your bags and take that 6-hour trip up to Baguio for a little taste of heaven.

No comments: