Malate in the City of Manila continues to evolve really, really fast. Yes, it was always a historical place – you only need to see the ancestral houses that still dot the area to know that this place was once home of Metro Manila’s old rich. But I’d say that particularly in recent times, the area’s evolution has quickened – there was a time when it was part of the red light district of the city, “home” of the so-called “kalapating mababa ang lipad” (literally: “doves that fly low”, though really just referring to prostituted women); and then it became the bohemian must-visit place (with writers, artists and the likes frequenting the place); and then becoming the gay area; and then becoming a Koreatown; and then – nowadays – into a largely hetero ogle-town (complete with the clubs with showgirls who striptease even in the remaining gay bar in the area, sports bars, et cetera).
Malate of the past is dead; but there’s a “new” Malate that mixes not necessarily the bests of its past, though this version is not at all uninteresting.
It is in this “new” Malate where Vest – a ramen house along Adriatico Street – can be found, mixing some of the good (e.g. carefree attitude, good food) and some of the bad (e.g. sex industry, beggars of the city) that people who frequented Malate in the past know very well.
Look-wise, Vest is actually just a rundown karinderya-like (eatery-like) inuman (drinking joint). As such, it’s a non-airconditioned place beside the street, with numerous plastic chairs and tables (i.e. monoblocs). Obviously, there’s nothing “fancy” about this place.
To up the ante of the place being rundown, check the toilets that almost look like belated additions to the place – e.g. the urinals in the male toilet, for example, look like they were just pasted on existing cement walls, so that “yuck” easily comes to mind when you see it.
There’s an area worth highlighting – i.e. the ramen stall, where the “magic” is made. This is akin to the food stalls in the streets of Bangkok or Vietnam or Japan or… you get the drift. The stall has everything needed to make the good offerings – e.g. noodles, broth, et cetera.
And so – in a way – Vest (somewhat) elevates street eating…
WHY GO THERE
Obviously – as stressed – you don’t come here because of the fancy atmosphere. In fact, if there’s one reason to be here at all, it’s the ramen.
There aren’t that many choices – i.e. Shoyu (P60), Miso (P80), Shio (P70) and Tan-tanmen (P90). There are thingies you can add – e.g. egg (P10), soup (P10) and spice (P10).
But the offerings here are yummy. Even better when eaten after a drunken night-out.
That they’re cheap is definitely a plus (e.g. I’ve had supposedly authentic Korean ramen in restaurants near De La Salle University along Taft, and though I paid P200 per bowl, what was served me was just instant noodles topped with more spices!).
Alas, there are many minuses why you shouldn’t drop by this place.
The rundown state of the place has already been stated.
The beggars, too, who hop from one table to another, asking for whatever they can for them to survive.
And then there are the sex workers who stay at the place to: 1) drink cheaply with thrifty clients, or 2) look for clients while there (the place is popular among Western backpackers, and non-Filipino students). In between sipping hot broth and chowing down pork siomai (P25 for five pieces), you are bound to hear mainly female sex workers discuss would-be clients and the expected sexual acts that go with whatever price that will be asked. So if you’re not keen being with their likes, you’ve been warned…
IN THE END
If you’re willing to sacrifice overall ambiance for cheap, better-than-okay food, check this place out.
If you believe ambiance is important to enjoy food, then this one isn’t for you.
Try having your ramen packed for take-out; that way, you’d still be able to savor the offering/s without having to stay there…
Vest is located along Adriatico Street in Malate, City of Manila.