A section of the restaurant's interiors: several paintings (by Jetro) and a clock projected on the wall.
Van Gogh is Bipolar is tucked away at the back of a small apartment complex, and as with most units, was only converted into a commercial establishment. The owner, Jetro Rafael, is bipolar, a condition he has since embraced and is continuously managing. He has looked up about the mood-enhancing properties of certain foods and has incorporated them into his diet, helping him manage his condition. And with the encouragement of some friends, soon enough, VGIB was born.
With several framed photos, artworks and other stuff bathed in colored mood lights, the restaurant's unique character is already palpable even from outside the door, where a few tables and chairs were propped up for alfresco dining. Also, guests entering are required to leave their footwear at the doorstep.
Inside, it felt more like someone's home than a commercial restaurant (well, it is Jetro's home, after all), with a huge wooden cupboard filled with dozens of glassware, figurines and lamps that immediately greets you upon entering the door. Within the dimly lit space are some tables and chairs, a bevy of teapots and cups, unframed paintings and other artwork, and just about every item conceivable that one can stuff in there. It's a charming and very relaxed setup, no doubt.
A section of the huge cupboard. The kitchen window, where guests get their food, is on the right.
Warm and cozy, with everyone barefoot. This would have been the main living area if this weren't a restaurant.
Another section, more dimly lit than the rest. Love the mismatched chairs! That's Jetro's room
Bar-type seating is also available.
Very creative use of dried leaves. This collection of framed paintings all incorporate at least one leaf in each artwork. In these two paintings, the leaf takes on the shape of a beard and a woman's hair. Cool!
Randomness on display. How do you put a doll, a clock, skeleton figures and a huge feather together? Like this!
Service and quirks
I think the chalkboard below says it all. VGIB is extremely laid-back, the sign warns, so don't expect fast and efficient service here. More so, you won't find any waiters at all. Your orders, you place at the kitchen window. Your food, you get from the kitchen window once your name is called. You want tea? Make your own. You've got a lot of choices, from the type of tea to the teapot that you'll use. Even with settling your bill you do it yourself. Honesty is highly valued.
The board says it all.
Guests here are also free to pick any hat, headband or tiara by the door and wear them while inside. They can also express themselves with letters and notes, and pin them on the wall. Better yet, they can write down their deepest, darkest secrets and post them in the confession room.
Fancy a hard hat, or some bunny ears perhaps? Just make sure you return them before leaving.
Post all you want.
The teapot choices. Good luck on settling with one.
Don't know how to make tea? Fret not as instructions are provided. You can choose from among guava, banana, mango, guyabano, avocado, and plum tea leaves. We tried the guava; it was really good!
All the utensils you'll need are here, sterilized and properly labeled.
The kitchen window. Ring the bell if you need anything.
This is where you pay.
There are also a few nostalgia-inducing cheap stuff for sale, like powdered milk candy and plastic balloons.
The confession room, where everyone is encouraged to spill his or her deepest, darkest secret.
Freedom of expression.
The spruced-up restroom. Lovely, isn't it?
There's no menu to peruse here at VGIB. If you're looking for one, then you're in the wrong place. At a reasonable Php 999, we were served a five-course meal, which was definitely the longest and most laid-back five-course meal I've ever had. We probably started at around seven, and conversations included, we left the place at past ten. The meal was also punctuated by several interactions with Jetro himself.
On weekdays, though, the menu is scaled down to a three-course meal. The price is also lower.
Drinks: Courtney Love's Potion
It's a tropical fruit concoction topped with mint leaves. Nothing seems out of the ordinary here but nonetheless it's good.
Soup: Virginia Woolf Broth
Much like Ms Love, this one takes its name from another popular figure believed to have (had) bipolar mood disorder. From what I've tasted, it's made of pureed potatoes and has red cabbage, basil, and lemon tossed in. I loved how the basil and lemon interacted with the potato.
I'm not sure if there was a nickname for this dish but it's got mashed potato (I believe?), egg and mozzarella cheese, topped off with caviar, walnut, mint, and dried cherries. I wanted a second serving.
Salad: Larry Flynt's Cabbage Experience
Jetro advised us to wash our hands after appetizer because we were going to use our hands. On the dish was a boiled cabbage surrounded by slices of tomatoes, boiled egg, cucumber, and pickles, along with some banana chips, mango, basil leaves, and dried fish. Fortunately we were told what to do before digging in: peel off some cabbage leaves and wrap in any combination of condiments, then dip it in the sweet sauce provided.
I thought this was the end of the meal because I was kinda full already. Sure, it was messy, but it was an enjoyable dish no less.
Main course: Chill or Uplift?
I remember we were asked to choose between "Chill" and "Uplift (was it?)," which were supposed to be dishes that enhanced one's mood this way. Unfortunately, I completely forgot which was which.
Anyway, mine was a chicken dish, cooked in some sauce with blueberries. It was served with some mashed potato with a fruity and nutty twist. The chicken was moist and I liked the touch of blueberry, but the dish may be a tad too rich for some. Or maybe I was just full already before this.
My Bibe's main course was fish served with a fruity pasta on the side. This was a much lighter fare compared to my chicken.
Dessert: Mel Gibson's Darkest Sin
This consisted of thick chocolate topped with some walnuts and served in a shot glass. It's meant to be washed down with the absinthe from a test tube. I loved the richness of the chocolate and although I know I shouldn't be drinking alcohol, the mint-infused vodka was just too good to pass. A perfect ender to this multi-coursed fare!
Overall, Van Gogh is Bipolar is a place I'd recommend trying. Although My Bibe says such an offbeat concept is not really new to her, it's still a refreshing alternative to most people's usual dining experience. The food is likewise mostly good and I find that it's reasonably priced, especially when the ambiance and the whole experience are factored in.
The man himself, Jetro Rafael, with My Bibe.
My turn for a souvenir shot.
Van Gogh is Bipolar is open on most days for dinner only (from 6pm onwards). However, since Jetro closes the place when he's traveling, it's best to like and check their Facebook page for updates on when they're open. Also, you need to text beforehand to get and confirm a reservation. He won't answer his phone, though, once he starts cooking, so text him during the day.
Van Gogh is Bipolar
154H Maginhawa Street
Sikatuna Village, Quezon City