We came to The Vibe on a late weekend afternoon for early dinner. Expectations were high. I’ve seen glowing online articles such as this and this about the place. The NYC subway-themed food park has been operating for less than a year, and the spot was a convenient 10-minute drive from where I live (a little more when traffic becomes heavy in this notoriously vehicle-dense area along Mindanao Avenue). What’s not to like?

I may have been suckered in by dubious internet praise.

Yes, I know. Many food webpages and blogs these days read more like advertorials than real, honest-to-goodness review sites. It’s a known practice, though often swept under the rug, that blog “writers” (such an abused term these days) get free meals and other perks in exchange for their favorable “opinions.” I won’t delve lengthily into the ethics of this now-common trend. Suffice to say that I carry a huge, helpful caveat when going to an eatery that’s been extolled to high heavens by the local culinary blogerati.

I’ve been to a handful of food parks over the years and I have to say The Vibe was the most depressing-looking. You get an immediate sense that it’s seen better days. Quite a number of stalls had already been boarded shut. Perhaps the closures were the result of the general glut of food parks, or maybe the stalls weren’t interesting enough to diners. Whatever the causes, the effect was like seeing someone attempting to give you the biggest, warmest smile possible but there were many missing teeth. That ain’t pretty.

We came just as the park opened on a Sunday, but all the stalls we checked out weren’t ready for service. Those we ordered from, without exception, made us wait an average of half an hour before our meals arrived.

Food was middling, the quality mediocre to subpar, except for one that definitely ranks as one of the best food park treats I’ve had ever.

The maki rolls from Karaki needed generous amounts of soy sauce to liberate them from utter blandness. I appreciate sushi for its often gentle, understated flavors, but this particular preparation took the subtle flavor approach way too far. In the wrong direction.

A serving of Bulgogi from a stall at the second level was marred by withered lettuce leaves that were limp instead of crunchy. Pity, because the DIY cooking and the various banchan (appetizers) could’ve been fun.

Baypoint’s Giant Butterfly Squid was the dinner savior. Uniquely presented, no superfluous or superficial arte. Care and thoughtful research was obviously made to make this dish tasty. I loved it to the last bite.

The flavorful batter was light-medium in texture, the squid tender. Whole squid like Baypoint’s, which was as big as my hand, often defaults to rubbery when cooked. This wasn’t. I hope Baypoint becomes successful beyond the constricting space of The Vibe. Giant Butterfly Squid deserves to be a bestseller, a primetime highlight, whenever and wherever it’s sold.

 

I didn’t settle into any deeply gratifying groove at The Vibe. That squid has since been doing a mean Kylie Minogue number on me, though. I just can’t get it out of my head. Takeout would therefore be a viable option next time I’m craving to sink my teeth into that yummy delight.

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