Robby Goco’s pretty infamous in the culinary scene, with loads of restaurants under his belt, and a reputation that precedes him. No matter what is said about him however, no one can deny that this guy can cook. His establishments are always well-reviewed, and receive a cult following months, and even years, after their opening. With Green Pastures, Goco has added another hit to his repertoire.
A lot of people are skeptical about “organic” food, thinking it’s just a fad, but Goco’s work in Green Pastures shows that the usual stereotypes that accompany the “organic” label are not true. Your food doesn’t have to be vegan or strictly healthy. In fact, Goco’s dishes are different from what we’ve been eating so far from other organic restaurants. His creations are robust and assertive, with the ingredients taking center stage. If more organic restaurants showed off their produce this way, we would have no trouble converting Manila diners over to the cause.
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the dishes I’ve had here.
The menu is exciting. It’s breathtaking, deceptively simple, but incredibly unique all at once. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the dishes I’ve had here, and believe me I’ve had many. A crab and sea urchin pasta was the only odd one out, a little disjointed from the rest of the menu, and too soggy and salty when it arrived. Maybe the charcuterie isn’t the best in town, but the fried headcheese had a great gelatinous quality. The ricotta is a revelation. It is crazy good. The texture is smooth, with just the slight graininess that naturally comes from curdled milk, but the flavor was salty and fresh, and perfectly accented by an onion jam that deserved to be bottled. Also, you’ve got to applaud the man for making everything in-house.
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to the fresh pastas, but the was a huge hit, and something I have never experienced texturally before. No matter how long it’s been braised, I’ve never had octopus this tender, so soft that it mimicked the texture of the bone marrow. With a sauce that was rich, hearty, and almost ragu-like, its contrast with the soft, pliant octopus made for a really memorable dish. This was worth the trip alone, and one of the greater dishes on the menu that may be overlooked for some of the more adventurous-sounding mains.
The pork shoulder served Korean-style was also incredible. A whole dark brown slab arrives on your table, glistening with caramelized fat, and accompanied by everything you need to make your own ssam. You get ginger and scallions, home made ssam jang sauce, kimchi, and something new, lightly brined oysters. It may not sound like it makes sense but, with all the dishes I’d already tried, I trust Goco. Everything marries well even though it sounds like it shouldn’t. The skin of the almost-burnt shoulder tastes like caramel candy, but the sweetness of the pork takes on a different flavor altogether when paired with a briny oyster and a sour and spicy bite of kimchi. It’s a combination you will dream about for days.
If I had to complain just a little, it’s with Goco’s treatment of organic food. He places a lot of weight on the “organic” label, but it isn’t made as clear to the diner as it can be. It’s about knowing where your food came from, knowing what went into the production of the meat, and being assured that your greens came from a farm that uses natural fertilizers. I hope Goco finds a way to educate his customers about our food, maybe tell us where his organic lamb comes from or where the eggs were raised, for example, so we know what we are responsibly eating.
Green Pastures could very well be the best new restaurant of 2013.
I was hard-pressed to find fault with the operation. Service was okay, with some of the waiters and waitresses still struggling to find their feet, but they all seemed to know a great deal about the menu, which means they were taught well. Maybe it was just my lucky day because Goco was in the kitchen himself, supervising every plate that came out, but the recipes themselves can stand alone. He doesn’t step too far outside the box to prevent alienating the more conservative diners, but he still experiments enough with the great produce to please the more adventurous types curious about the place. Someone told me that Green Pastures is the ‘best new opening of 2013.’ It could very well be.