Upon hearing the word macrobiotic, the image that springs to mind is, quite frankly, rabbit food. In essence, the term “macrobiotic” can be used to describe a diet that consists mainly of whole foods (nothing processed) with a lot of grains and beans, so yes, I guess, that’s rabbit food. In my mind this didn’t seem like a lifestyle I could adapt but I was willing to try out newly opened Uniquease (pronounced “Yu-ni-ka-se”) that was promoting foods cooked in an organic and macrobiotic style. I was, to be honest, prepared to go hungry for the rest of the day. The concept behind macrobiotics also interested me with its long-term goal: to promote well-being and longevity through diet and nutrition. With fast-food chain and their deep-fried goodness all around, this seemed like a good respite for my digestive system, it’s always good to give your body a break and I try to keep an open mind, especially when it comes to food.
The restaurant was simply decorated with no frills and lunch was buffet style. The owner and founder, Yachiyo Nakamura, came out to say hello and announce that she would be serving other dishes for the patrons to try. Nakamura, a native of Tokyo, came to Manila with social enterprise in her heart. All her employees are disadvantaged youth, or considered children at risk (meaning most have been abused) and she trains and employs them, even houses them in her private residence hoping to give them another chance at self-esteem and a new beginning in life. Although the presentation of the food was rather simple, it was very tasty. There were appetizers made out of okra (tossed with garlic) a refreshing cold sliced carrot salad with Japanese mayonnaise and finger food styled mochi balls. Viands were steamed fish and a very flavorful chicken curry (yes, so some dishes weren’t 100-percent macrobiotic and vegetarian) — oh, and of course the more fiber-filled brown rice. The dishes were made fresh, especially the miso soup, and the highlight of my lunch, sushi with egg, salmon and tuna. If you are a hearty eater, then you will be happy with their all-you-can eat lunch buffet for P500. If buffet is not your style then you can always go à la carte.
There is nothing particularly fancy in the preparation, but the food does taste clean, and you can tell that Nakamura’s passion is passed on to her cooking and into the training of her staff. In spite of having to run in and out of the kitchen, her smile never left her face, and she was, as most Japanese are known to be, unfailingly polite and gracious. Most of the diners were Japanese; my group (aside from the staff) were the only Fiipinos, which I count as a good sign. If you love meat but your partner doesn’t and you want a healthier option then Uniquease does serve pork with ginger and miso. I went for seconds when it came to dessert; we were served two kinds of freshly baked bread, one with banana and the other with mango. They weren’t sickeningly sweet and the crusts were nice and toasted. I also felt — and this may just be my way of compensating for the number of times I filled my plate — that nothing I ate was fattening. Maybe because, unlike normal Asian fare, nothing was swimming in oil, and there was nothing overpowering in terms of smell or taste. I was pleasantly satisfied by my experience with what I thought would just be rabbit food. Truth be told, I ended up liking the carrot salad so much I must have really been a rabbit in my past life.
So, this ends another food adventure for me. Nakamura training her staff and taking them in, giving these kids another chance at life reminded me of world-famous restaurateur Jaime Oliver and his TV series Fifteen, on a less glamorous scale. Oliver, as most of you Food Network fans know, opened a world-class restaurant while training disadvantaged youths to eventually become chefs in order to give them a shot at a more independent and productive existence. Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant is now open in four global locations. Although Nakamura may not have Oliver’s culinary clout, the intent is the same and — who knows? — macrobiotic and organic-style cooking may be the new top class kind of cuisine to sink your teeth in this millennium. Unique-kasi.
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Uniquease is located at the G/F, Avant Building, Jupiter cor. Mars St., Bel Air, Makati (Call 519-6406). Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (lunch) and 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (dinner).
|Eat healthy, hearty and help others
SOUL TRAIN By Katrina A. Holigores (The Philippine Star) Updated October 29, 2010