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Setting the Bar: Gallery VASK

6 months ago

Setting the Bar: Gallery VASK

vask

MODERN TAPAS AT VASK

Words by Tracey Paska

Photographed by Mike Cuevas of Studio 100

 

EIGHTEEN MONTHS AFTER OPENING VASK MODERN TAPAS & GASTRONOMIC CUISINE ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF BONIFACIO GLOBAL CITY, Chef Jose Luis Gonzalez continues to mesmerize Metro Manila’s notoriously fickle diners with an ever-evolving menu while remaining true to his innovative techniques and culinary philosophies.

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VASK now encompasses three concepts: Gallery VASK, the latest iteration featuring multi-course ne dining featuring primarily native ingredients; the adjacent Curve, a lounge and special events venue; and the original VASK Dining Room and Deck, focusing exclusively on tapas. It is here that Chef Chele, as he is known to friends and colleagues, rst brought to the local food scene the kind of modern gastronomy that emerged from the vanguard of Spanish restaurants where he once worked, including El Bulli, Arzak, El Celler de Can Roca and Mugaritz.

Conceived as a tapas bar, the Dining Room is a sleek, contemporary space punctuated with touches of industrial whimsy, from the toy figurines posturing above the bar to ductwork peeking through the wood cutout ceiling. A wall-sized portrait of surrealist painter Salvador Dali and an image from Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece “Guernica” are the only subtle hints of a Spanish air. Instead, Chef Chele allows the menu to reveal VASK’s culinary focus: an homage to both Spanish heritage cookery and avant-garde cuisine.

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The dual menu features traditional and modern tapas that are “now part of the Spanish gastronomic culture, born in the Basque country,” he explained. The former features dishes that retain their classic familiarity, like Croquetas Pollo y Jamón with their crisp coating over creamy béchamel studded with bits of ham and suffused with the pure, clean flavor of chicken. On the contemporary side, mango ‘toasts’ serve as pedestals for lightly caramelized rounds of foie gras mousse, while traditional components in other offerings are reinvigorated, such as Pulpo ala Gallega with its tender octopus cushioned on velvety potato foam, then sprinkled with smoky paprika crumbs and drizzled with olive oil.

For Chef Chele, modern gastronomy is about “innovation with ingredients that are available and affordable to everybody. The difference that we make [at VASK] is to be innovative every day,” he stated. Working for some of the world’s best restaurants taught him to “never relax – keep updating yourself and go for excellence.” As such, the menu changes every 3 to 4 months, requiring constant inspiration, which he finds by “experimenting, researching, traveling all the time and learning from people around me.”

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Except for a few specialty ingredients such as jamón Ibérico, Chef Chele
prefers to use as many local ingredients as possible, from Palawan seafood to Kitayama beef from Bukidnon. “The most important thing is getting ingredients produced with care. The only way you can get that magic ingredient is from someone who believes in the same things as you.”

As VASK continues to grow and impress, Chef Chele is unabashed about his vision for the restaurant and for the Philippines’ growing reputation as a food capital: “We want to compete with any other restaurant in the world, with innovation and with respect for the environment.”

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