I’m no doctor, but I swear by the curative effects of Vietnamese food.
Characterized by the abundant use of herbs and leafy vegetables, Vietnamese cuisine is one of the healthiest around. But that’s not entirely why I think it’s a remedy to one’s aches and pains. There’s something about a good bowl of pho that can kick a bad cold or stomachache.
I ventured to Vietnomnom for this reason. Feeling under the weather for the past couple of days, I wanted nothing more than food that allows me to heal and meditate.
One of the things people will most likely appreciate about Vietnomnom is its carefully curated menu. It doesn’t offer you dozens of confusing options; instead, it offers you small choices–will it be noodles or rice? How about banh mi? That’s as far as you get when it comes to choosing what to eat. Another thing about the menu is that all items come with pictures, a crucial thing for people who are only starting to discover the joys of Vietnamese food.
We went with our Vietnamese favorites: Goi Cuon (Shrimp) (P215), Beef Pho (P250), and Chicken Pho (P250). That’s when the server apologized and said that they were phasing out Chicken Pho and replacing it with something that I loved even more: Bun Bo Hue, a spicy, savory noodle soup. But before the Bun Bo Hue is available, we had to choose something else to replace our Chicken Pho order, and we ended up with the Grilled Pork Com Tam (P175). We also threw in the Traditional Banh Mi (P175) just for kicks.
Orders came a few minutes later. One sip of the pho and I knew–this wasn’t it. Despite being simmered for 12 hours, the broth didn’t have the meditative, almost transcendent quality of pho I’m used to. Nevertheless, the soup did have the distinct flavor of beef, and it was topped with enough beef slices. Still, if the broth didn’t make me close my eyes in pleasure, it has a long way to go.
Served on the side are basil, chili, bean sprouts, and a slice of lime, which would be customarily added to the hot soup. Don’t underestimate the chili–it can turn your friendly broth to an angry one in seconds.
Despite the lackluster pho, everything else we ordered was marvelous. The fresh spring rolls, albeit pricey, were positively delightful. The aromatics on this one wasn’t as strong as our favorite version from Tra Vinh, but the combination of the hoisin-peanut sauce, lettuce, vermicelli, carrots, and shrimp did provide enough satisfaction.
The true bright spots were the Traditional Banh Mi and the Grilled Pork Com Tam. The Banh Mi’s bread was perfect–crunchy on the outside, soft and dreamy on the inside. It housed the fillings well, which included Vietnamese ham, homemade pate, pickled carrots and radishes, and cilantro. A bottle of hoisin is on every table, so you’re allowed to go crazy with the pungent sauce.
Meanwhile, the rice on the Grilled Pork Com Tam would make any Vietnamese mother proud. Fluffy, lively, almost sweet, it was the star of the show. The pork was tender and nicely seasoned, and with a drizzle of the lime fish sauce dressing, it truly comes alive. The vegetables on the side of the bowl also played their part in making this a hit.
After eating, I finally got to appreciate the small details that make Vietnomnom a charming hole-in-the-wall. Floor-to-ceiling murals, industrial yet homey interiors–indeed, the owners knew what they were doing when they opened up shop. I learned a few months ago that the people behind Hizon’s Catering were also responsible for opening this restaurant, and I’m not surprised. Vietnomnom may be a newbie, but it takes traditional Vietnamese cuisine and serves it like a veteran.
I went to Vietnomnom hoping to find a bowl of pho that will finally calm my piercing headache and give me the clarity I’ve been looking for. Instead, I found something else: a lesson that you can find satisfaction and healing where you least expect it, like an unassuming rice bowl or an expertly baked banh mi bun.
Vietnomnom is located at 1E Ground Floor, 189 Maginhawa Street, Quezon City, Philippines