THERE'S always a bright side to life, whatever life may throw our way. The bright side of riding taxis that dare not go beyond 30kph even at night when traffic is already low? You get to see everything along the way, and read even small signs.

Like this small lighted sign along Magallanes Street on my way home last week.

The taxi had just turned from Anda Street to Magallanes when the tiny lighted sign caught my eye in that stand-alone restaurant (pansitan) of Grand Men Seng Hotel. (I never remember what that restaurant's name is, we just call it either the stand-alone resto of Men Seng or the pansitan ng Men Seng). Before noticing that lighted sign, that space used to feature some foodstuff like kaong vinegar, the season's fruits, and some other kind of vinegar. That night, I noticed the displays and tarpaulin signs were no longer there. There was a glass window and the sign, "Sushi Bar & Veggie Haus."

Having been once a vegetarian before the realities of being the editor-in-chief made me realize that being a vegetarian as a guest to regular gatherings is an inconvenience and a lot of bother to the host, anything vegetarian still catches my eye.

The following night, I was there with Miggy (she's a pesca-vegetarian) and Dengdeng (she's a spaghetti-chicken eater who also likes tokwa). Miggy got a ramen (I forgot what, but it's the one with three mushrooms, go ask the waiter) and the Crunchy Maki. I got the vegetable tempura and sizzling tofu.

Deng would arrive much later.

Miggy was told that they lacked one mushroom, and if it's okay if there will only be two mushrooms. She said okay. She was also told that they're out of salmon and that if it's okay if they use tuna instead for her crunchy maki. She again said okay. Cool customer they got there.

The ramen was very good. Soup was more on the thick side (maybe it's a gomoku soyu after all) and the taste of shiitake mushroom is very distinguishable (I like shiitake, by the way). The crunchy maki is indeed crunchy, and you get 10 pieces per order. It was good, but with the rice in maki, it soon became difficult to consume all ten between the two of us (Deng doesn't like raw stuff) and the tuna is raw.

Deng got the squid teriyaki and enjoyed my sizzling tofu so much, she ordered another one.

She also got a guyabano shake that came with a cat as garnishing.

It's a carved wooden cat that you hang on the lip of a glass for decoration, but when I asked the waiter why there's a cat hanging by the lip of the glass, he said, it was "garnishing."

The squid is nicely done, tender and not chewy. But we enjoyed the tofu the most. And yes, I'd get another serving of that ramen anytime.

Where is it?

It's along Magallanes Street in that stand-alone restaurant of Grand Men Seng Hotel. Enter the restaurant it's the glass door to your left.

Oh, and they forgot my order of vegetable tempura. I didn't mind because there was more than enough for the three of us, what with Dengeng ordering another sizzling plate of tofu.