In Vietnam, people take their food very seriously. So much so that some mothers judge their son’s significant others by the way they cook their pho! She can be pretty and smart, but if her pho isn’t up to his mama’s standard….pho…getaboutit!
A ho-hum broth just isn’t going to cut it and could mean the end of a relationship! Harsh? Maybe. But it also goes to show how tightly they hold on to their culture and traditions.
Luckily for us, we don’t have to worry about impressing any future mothers-in-law and can just focus on relishing the Vietnamese cuisine and all it has to offer. Pull up a seat at these Vietnamese restaurants and cafes in Manila for your dose of sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy!
Bawai’s Vietnamese Kitchen
Bawai was born when its owners started to welcome anyone who wanted home cooked Vietnamese meals into their house in Tagaytay. Since then, it has won over the hearts and bellies of many. By popular demand, they’ve set up shop in QC to bring the intimate and heartily-prepared dishes of their original branch closer to their patrons in Manila.
Without having to make that long drive to the South anymore, you get to sample their best-selling Bawai’s Salad, a mix of fresh coconut sprouts, herbs, glazed pork, and steamed shrimps, which can make even the non-salad lovers go in for a second helping. Their Tom Rang Me, a dish of black tiger prawns made sweet with tamarind paste, and their Com Suon Cha, juicy pork belly marinated in lemongrass caramel, are perfect choices for your main course.
Before you leave, be sure you’ve had a taste of their desserts too! The Banh da Lon, the Vietnamese version of the Filipino sapin-sapin, and the Basil Ice Cream are not to be missed!
Bawai’s Vietnamese Kitchen can be found in Bellitudo Lifestyle Strip, 79 Katipunan Ave., White Plains, Quezon City, Metro Manila.
It used to be that hidden gem along Perea street in Makati, frequented only by the ones privy to the secret. But with the addition of three more branches in the Metro later on, the cat’s definitely out of the bag. Ba Noi’s is now the old, reliable restaurant we all turn to for days we feel like indulging but in a healthier, Vietnamese way.
Their Suon Nuong Xa, a plate of lip-smacking pan-fried pork riblets flavored in Ba Noi’s special lemongrass marinade and served with soy-chili sauce, is a delicious pick for your main course here. So are the Bo Luc La, an entree of stir-fried spiced beef topped with fried, crispy basil leaves, and the Ca Tre Chien Gion Mam Gung, a fried catfish dish eaten with salad greens and Vietnamese dipping sauces.
If your sweet tooth is calling out for dessert after your meal, go for the Ca Phe Lava! It may not look like your typical Asian dessert, but its thick cookie base is infused with Vietnamese coffee for that sweet, slightly bitter flavor in its gooey center.
Ba Noi’s can be found at East Capitol Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig, Metro Manila.
It’s a tiny, little thing against the vast backdrop of Cebu’s food and dining scene, but you’ll always find it packed and buzzing with Cebuanos who love the fresh flavors of the Vietnamese fare. Through the collaboration of Cebu’s Abaca Group and Manila’s Moment Group, this restaurant’s well-loved dishes are now easily accessible to us Manileños, too!
Sans the airplane ride to the Visayas (just a much shorter trip to BGC), get a taste of their best-selling Pho Special, a bowl of beef pho broth made extra meaty with generous toppings of shaved U.S. Angus beef, braised beef, meatballs, and tendon. Feel like a pho pro here because you get to choose your seasonings for your soup with condiments like sweet hoisin sauce, salty fish sauce, spicy sriracha sauce, or sour lime juice.
Order up a cup of their Vietnamese Custard Coffee for a sweet ending to your meal!
Phat Pho can be found on the G/F of Serendra Piazza, McKinley Parkway, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila.
Zao Vietnamese Bistro
When we think Vietnamese cuisine in Metro Manila, Zao might not even pop into our minds at all. Unlike its more popular rivals, this one’s been flying under the radar this whole time. But it doesn’t mean its dishes are any less memorable. In fact, this restaurant might just be the new and refreshing take on Vietnamese food you’ve been searching for if you’ve gotten tired of the usuals.
Here, you can ditch the pho for a change and go for the house favorite Zao Barbeque Platter, a sampler of their best-selling beef, pork, and chicken barbecue all flavored with their special Vietnamese marinade. Order these cooked-to-perfection meat variants along with another popular pick, the Claypot Fish, a dish of catfish fillet cooked in caramelized garlic fish sauce for a not-so-typical Vietnamese feast.
Cap it all off with their Espresso Gateau de Crepe, a cake made of 20 paper-thin crepes with Vietnamese coffee-infused cream smothered in between its layers!
Zao Vietnamese Bistro can be found on the 5/F of East Wing, Shangri-La Plaza, EDSA cor. Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong, Metro Manila.
While it is a culinary product of the six-decade-long French colonialism, the banh mi is a food we all identify as uniquely and deliciously Vietnamese. We know it as the snack that’s temptingly crispy on the outside and comfortingly warm and chewy on the inside, popularly sold along the streets of Ho Chi Minh.
For those on the quest to find the most authentic banh mi in Manila, make your way to Makati and try Bon Banhmi. There’s nothing fancy about the place but don’t let its drab interiors turn you off. looloo reviewers have been calling their sandwiches the best in the Metro! The no-fail order here is the Traditional Banhmi, slathered with the special Bon Banhmi paste and stuffed with three types of Vietnamese ham. Add a few drops of their chili sauce for that extra Vietnamese heat!
Wash everything down with a cup of their iced black or brown coffee or their signature healthy Artichoke Tea!
Bon Banhmi is found 8390 Mayapis St., San Antonio Village, Makati, Metro Manila.
As the second largest coffee producer in the world, it’d be an understatement to say that coffee runs through the veins of the Vietnamese. The ubiquitous drink is served everywhere from swanky coffee shops with westernized looks to sidewalk stalls with the tiniest stools that’ll make your legs cramp.
Now that DiCofi has set up shop in the Metro, we get to experience a tiny fraction of this coffee culture that puts Vietnam into motion. We know they’re giving us the real deal because their coffee isn’t shy to kick your senses awake with strong jolts of caffeine, and that’s exactly what Vietnamese coffee is known for.
In this humble hole-in-the-wall cafe in Makati, the Cafe Sua Da (or Vietnamese Iced Coffee) is the drink you need to order if you like the feeling of your heart pumping through your chest. But if it’s a sleepless night you’re in the mood for, then the White Coffee is your best bet!
DiCofi can be found on the UG/F of Valero Plaza, 124 Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati, Metro Manila.