A very bold move

Dr. Nestor Alonso II (The Freeman) - December 18, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — There is a new restaurant in town, Happy Hippos, that officially opened last December 3, 2020, at Streetscape Mall (Paseo Saturnino, Maria Luisa Road, in Banilad). It came as a bit of a surprise for me, since all I have seen in the last 10 months of the Covid-19 pandemic were closures of restaurants, bars, fast-food franchises, roadside eateries, and even carenderias.

I was at the Bibendum Wines at the Streetscape upon the request of some friends to look for inexpensive drinks as corporate giveaways this Christmas. Many offices have decided not to hold any Christmas parties to avoid contact transmission of the virus, and instead decided to give their employees wine and ham to celebrate Christmas with their immediate families.

I had a beer with some regular customers of Bibendum when Nicole Borromeo and Joanne Borromeo had to leave early because they were invited to the opening of new restaurant inside the mall. Ever curious, I took a look and meet some of the guests who are members of our gourmet club, La Chaine des Rotisseurs, many of whom I have not seen for many months. Ruud van Winden, the proprietor of the Happy Hippos, saw me and beckoned me to come inside for some drinks and cocktail food.

I adopted some protocols during this quarantine period like drink and eat only in open-air spaces but I saw Eryn, the better half of Ruud van Winden and a member of our gourmet club. And I could not simply say no to these lovely foods like Beetroot Risotto, Chicken Cheese Croissant, Labneh and Gazpacho.

Risotto is an Italian rice dish cooked with a broth made with meat, fish or vegetables like beetroot that imparts its intense red color. Labneh is a type of soft cheese made from strained yoghurt. Gazpacho is a Spanish soup, made of raw, blended vegetables and served cold. When I had a taste of this soup many decades ago, I was surprised why it was served cold. Later, I learned that it was a popular dish and served during hot summers in Spain and Portugal.

A week later, I interviewed Ruud van Winden on the concept of their daring venture of opening a restaurant and he said they were operating Happy Hippos as a “casual+ café restaurant serving international, plant-based food with several meat choices.” He said that all their dishes were freshly prepared from scratch on-site in an open kitchen.

Ruud added that it was time to offer heathy food for people who enjoy living a healthy lifestyle. Each dish served at their restaurant are “carefully crafted with fresh, whole ingredients and the greatest possible variety of sources for maximum nutrition.” There is no room in this restaurant, excuse me, for MSG, refined sugars, bouillon or stock cubes like chicken cubes and other synthetic flavoring agents.

Good luck to the van Winden couple, Eryn and Ruud, on this very bold move in opening Happy Hippos restaurant!

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