Monday, August 20, 2018

Recreating Inspired and Flavorful Journeys at Vanderlust

Each dish is a story inspired by fond memories of a European journey, recreated and retold daily at one of The Podium's newest must-try restaurants...

Vanderlust takes you on a culinary journey of European-inspired flavors with its extensive menu at The Podium. The young couple behind Vanderlust, Mark Anthony and Valerie Spencer, draw inspiration from fond memories of a European journey, retelling their stories of memorable experiences in different European cities with each flavorful dish. And you get to share the young couple's passion for both travel and food with an intimate dining experience at Vanderlust. So go ahead and wander through the different layers of European flavors at Vanderlust, now open at The Podium.

The idea behind Vanderlust began back in 2013 when Mark Anthony and Valerie Spencer traveled to Europe enjoying both the sights and flavors during their honeymoon. The month-long journey allowed the young couple to experience the rich and diverse culture of Europe and the unique culinary heritage of each town and city. It's this collection of experiences and memories that inspired the couple to recreate the memorable flavors of Europe in a place of their own. The initials of the couple are combined with the word associated with the strong desire or impulse to travel, and Vanderlust was born. Working closely with celebrity chef Michie Sison, Mark Anthony and Valerie developed a curated menu based on their experiences in Europe. The unique and highly personalized brand opened its very first branch in Tomas Morato back in 2016, and has since garnered both high esteem and favorable responses. And just two years later, Vanderlust opens its second branch at The Podium. The couple's stories of Europe are kept alive and revisited in its newest location, recreated with genuine honesty from real experiences.  

Enjoying and savoring each dish becomes an intimately personal experience at Vanderlust, and you'll find even more personal touches inside the elegant space including special tiles with the initials of the couple that mark the name of the restaurant. Vanderlust exudes a comforting warmth, and it's your gateway to European flavors.

And if you read through the menu, you'll find these stories to accompany you with your own journey at Vanderlust. Start your European culinary journey with a bowl of Sopa de Tomapepino (P 168 Solo/P 328 Sharing), a hearty and satisfying bowl with vibrant flavors made with a unique blend of sun-ripened tomatoes and cool cucumbers to refresh and warm the palate and body. The Chorizo & Roasted Garlic Potato Soup (P 178 Solo/P378 Sharing) is another tasty option at Vanderlust, with the bold notes of spicy Spanish Sausage and potatoes coming together in a rich and creamy broth, perfectly finished by the subtle and deep hints of roasted garlic.

The rustic Cacio e Pepe Classic (P 248) is a deceptively simple yet comforting pasta dish and a renowned signature flavor of Rome. Literally translated as "cheese and pepper," it's also said to be Anthony Bourdain's favorite in Rome. The distinct nutty hints of olive oil binds the bold flavors of cheese and peppers together for delicately balanced flavors. Uncomplicated with a minimalist approach to flavors, it's the quality and freshness of the ingredients that carries this dish, masterfully executed at Vanderlust's kitchen. Topped with a curled parmesan crisp for both added flavor and texture, the richness of the dish goes beyond it's simplicity capturing the real essence of the couple's travels.

Using the classic Roman pasta dish as the base, Vanderlust recreates an elegant spin on the Cacio e Pepe with the Cacio e Pepe Mushroom Truffle (P 428) infused with rich and indulgent mushroom truffles. An all-time best-seller from their first branch in Tomas Morato, the Cacio e Pepe Mushroom Truffle has all the familiar notes of the continent, from cheese to noodles capped by the rich, deep and earthy notes of truffles. Another option to try is the Cacio e Pepe Prawns & Lemon (P 558). 

The Espaguetis con Albondigas (P 348) is a spicy and savory pasta dish with juicy Spanish meatballs draped in either olive oil or tomato sauce, another excellent pasta option with just a whisper of soothing heat. 

Vanderlust also offers savory mains like the Schweinekotelett with Mustard Cream Sauce (P 498) drawing inspiration from Germany's iconic roasted pork knuckle with a layer of crisp crackling, the Schweinshaxe. It's also Vanderlust's most popular main dish and why not. Thick and juicy pork chop with pork skin delicately cooked to a crisp perfection and served with mashed potato, German fermented cabbage and draped with creamy mustard sauce, it's easy to see why. The savory richness of the pork lines the palate with its flavor, tempered by the mustard cream and fermented cabbage for balanced notes.

The vibrant tri-colors of Italy are highlighted in an elegantly plated dish, the Il Tricolore (P 748) with almond crusted salmon on pesto risotto with leek cream and cherry tomatoes. The buttery notes and texture of the premium almond crusted salmon pair well with the pesto risotto and tart cherry tomatoes for vibrant flavors. This one's a complete meal in itself and another favorite at Vanderlust.

Vanderlust gets creative with the Il Naufrago (P 478), which translates to "the cast away" in another elegantly plated dish with stuffed crust chicken breast laid on herbed pilaf surrounded by the vibrant red tones of rich marinara sauce fringed by the green essence of basil. But this is definitely no cast away when it comes to flavor. The delicate notes of the stuffed crust chicken are kicked up by the sunny flavors of marinara and perfectly finished by the herbed pilaf rice and basil essence. The combination of bold flavors in a finely balanced dish is something to experience at Vanderlust.

Exclusive to The Podium branch is Vanderlust's Dutch Baby (P 298) with juicy kielbasa, poached egg, garden-fresh arugula and German sweet mustard topped on a soft German pancake for a hearty breakfast or brunch. It may be for brunch, but I can have this dish all day long. Seriously. The mildly sweet pancakes absorb all the flavors of the kielbasa and the poached egg while the fresh arugula and sweet mustard add a tasty bite to complete the dish. Softer than the usual pancake, the German pancake, also called a Bismarck or Dutch Puff, is the perfect base for a satisfying brunch. Vanderlust's Dutch Baby is available in other savory variants, including Cheese with Cake and Speck und Pesto. But if you're craving for something sweet, Vanderlust has that covered too... 

...including a nostalgic childhood favorite given the Vanderlust touch with the Lagerfeuer Campfire (P 298) with roasted marshmallows and flambeed mangoes topped with thin slivers of almonds and fresh mint. The German pancake and roasted marshmallows combine for another winning combination, complemented by the flambeed mangoes. Other equally tempting sweet Dutch Baby options include the Sehr Beere with berries and cream and the Banoffee.

Another exclusive to The Podium branch is Vanderlust's delicate and decadent MilleFeuille, the classic French pastry with layers of thin and crisp puff pastry filled with cream available in Classic (P 100) and Cheesecake (P 130). The intricate layered dessert is pure eye candy, and one bite is all you need before you reach out for the other piece. And the other last piece. Other creative must-try variants with wittingly descriptive names like Folie aux Noisettes "Crazy Hazel" with banana and hazelnut, Tres Matcha "Verry Matcha" with matcha and berries, Lait Qui Pleure "Crying Milk" with dulce de leche and dark chocolate, and Noix Souffrante "Suffering Nut" with spiced pineapple and coconut illustrate just how Vanderlust takes the traditional "thousand leaves" pastry to the next level.

One more dessert exclusive to The Podium branch is the tempting Gianduiotto (P 185), a Northern Italian creation blending chocolate with hazelnut. Infused with hazelnut, the chocolate becomes richer in flavor. Think Nutella, with the first ever iteration of Nutella called Pasta Gianduja in Northern Italy according to Mark Anthony and Valerie. Chocolates are always part of any experience in a trip to Europe, and the young couple recreates these experiences with their indulgent desserts like the Gianduiotto. Served on a sleek stone slate with hazelnuts, each slice and bite just sends you off to a good place. Best paired with a creamy Latte.

But no visit to Vanderlust is complete without their flagship dessert, the decadent yet fun Schneeball (P 135 Original/P 165 Chocolate Dough), a snowball shaped shortcrust pastry with flavored coating and filling. The unique dessert dates back more than three hundred years from Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany. It's one of those flavorful experiences in Bavaria not to be missed, and Mark Anthony and Valerie brings it here for locals to discover and enjoy.

Enjoying the Schneeball is an experience in itself. Simply place the Scneeball in the paper bag and smash it with a mallet. Smashing something with a mallet inside an elegant restaurant can be such a liberating experience, and so much fun too. Working for your dessert with a wooden mallet was never this much fun. 

And after a few solid whacks, simply pour out the contents of the bag on the wooden board and enjoy. So many dishes, so many favorites. If you happen to see Mark Anthony and Valerie at the restaurant, say hi and listen to their awesome stories.

My feast ends with a soothing cup of Latte (P 160) to cap a satisfying feast that takes you half a world away and back. Many say real good food triggers memories or emotions. At Vanderlust, you can have a tasty glimpse of the young couple's passion for travel and food with each and every dish, everyday. 

Vanderlust is located at the 5th Floor, The Podium, ADB Avenue, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City or call 02 871-7314 for inquiries and more information.

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