Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Restaurant Love: Bawai's Vietnamese Kitchen

I've been in love with Vietnamese cuisine ever since my first sip of pho. The delectable clean taste of the broth never fails to make me feel that I'm indulging in something healthy. And I was beyond ecstatic when I visited one of the famous Vietnamese restaurants around, Bawai's. However, it being in Laguna (and the super traffic White Plains) made Bawai's spread a rare treat. Thankfully, I don't have to drive (or be stuck for) hours to this superb restaurant as it finally opened its doors in Uptown Parade. 

Hello, Bawai's.
I was so giddy on my way to this Vietnamese restaurant and my eyes sparkled with joy when I spotted its facade across the Uptown Bonifacio fountain.
The homey restaurant was filled with wooden accents, cement finish walls with a beautiful hand-painted mural and comfy seats. 
It was like being transported from a busy business district to someone's lovely home. I can't help admire the interiors while I wait for ForkSpoonManila and Food for Tata. 
We started the meal with a nice glass of Ca Phe Sua Da (PHP120) or Iced Vietnamese Coffee. It was spot on with the balance of coffee and condensed milk. It was not overwhelmingly sweet nor too strong. 
Soon, plate after plate of scrumptious looking dishes were served.
I first sampled Bawai's House Salad (PHP345) which is a mix of fresh coconut sprouts with glazed pork and steamed shrimp paired with house vinaigrette. It was a nice light dish for an appetizer. It tends to be on the sweet side which is perfect for those who are not very fond of greens. Note though that a bowl of this could be very filling if you finish it by yourself.
The Bawai's Garden Salad (PHP325) is this branch's bestselling salad. The bowl of arugula, lettuce, herbs, and ripe mangoes with prawns and tamarind dressing has interesting mix of textures and flavors. The slightly bitter arugula was balanced by the sweet ripe mango strips while the tamarind dressing tickled my taste buds.
What's a trip to a Vietnamese restaurant without indulging in fresh spring rolls? Bawai's Goi Cuon Bo (PHP320) guarantees crunchy and light rolls stuffed with flavorful sauteed beef in every bite. Dip it in the peanut sauce for additional taste.
One of the standout dishes was Banh Xeo (PHP385) or savoury crepe with bean sprouts, turnips, onions, mushrooms, pork and shrimp. I absolutely love the crunchiness of the thin wrap and the bean sprouts. I was amused too that we eat this like samgyeopsal where we wrap this in lettuce. The oiliness of the crisp crepe was well balanced by the fresh greens. I would have had three or four more servings of this if only we had a handful of dishes to sample. But there were more dishes to eat. [Note: This takes 15-20 minutes to prepare so make sure you're not hungry or in a hurry when ordering this delightful dish.]
Yet another dish new to me was Chao Tom (PHP325) or pounded shrimps on sugar cane skewer with vegetables and noodles. It looked like chicken lollipops to me and I was intrigued by it as soon as it was placed on the table. And it was not just intriguing. It tasted really good. The minced shrimps was very firm and enjoyable to munch. It was just a tad too expensive for three pieces.
The Bun Bo Xeo (PHP345) was bang for the buck. The bowl of dry noodles with seared lemongrass beef tenderloin topped with vegetables and nuts was very filling and good for sharing. I loved how the flavorful and fragrant beef complemented the noodles. The vegetables and nuts added texture to the dish giving it more character.
I was surprised to spot Curry Ga (PHP395) on the table. I didn't know that curry is also part of Vietnamese cuisine. But unlike the ones you could find in Indian restaurants, this one wasn't too spicy. In fact, it was not spicy at all making it perfect for those with low spice tolerance. 
The Ca Kho To (PHP550) or caramelized salmon with salad on the side was pretty good as well. 
Each bite was flavorful with a beautiful blend of different spices. Just make sure to watch out for fish bones. 
My favorites during this visit were Com Suon Cha (PHP435) and Bo Kho (PHP420). Both were succulent and oozing with flavor!
The Com Suon Cha or grilled pork belly glazed with caramel-lemongrass marinade had a nice sweet and subtly smokey taste that made me crave for rice. I had to hold off though as I was getting full and I still have other dishes waiting for me.
Bo Kho was a bit more familiar to me given that it is very much like our classic kaldereta. The slow-cooked beef stew mixed with potatoes, carrots and onions had a nice salty yet sweet taste. I was pleasantly surprised when the serving fork just went through the meat as I get my portion. 
Tom Rang Me (PHP590) is one of the most expensive dishes in the menu. The black tiger prawns were undeniably fresh as peeling off the skin was a breeze. It was pretty flavorful too but you could add more sweet tamarind paste if you want a stronger taste.
And of course, I could not leave a Vietnamese restaurant without having Pho Bo (PHP365). Bawai's version sticks with the traditional pho and that's why I love it a lot. The clean taste of the broth infused with herbs and spices down to the perfectly cooked noodles and thin slices of beef are always spot on. I love adding lime for that to die for contrast of tangy and salty flavors instead of hoisin sauce and topping it with lots of bean sprouts. Just thinking about it makes me drool! 

As we move on to our desserts, we were offered to try Nuoc Da Me (PHP105) or Iced Sweet Tamarind. And it was great too! It had a nice sweet yet tangy taste perfect to cleanse the palate. [Trivia: Did you know that you could actually eat tamarind seeds? It gets soft after being soaked for a long time turning it a great tangy snack or sinker for drinks.]
For sweets, we sampled Ban Da Lon (PHP80) and Che Dau (PHP80). 
I prefer Ban Da Lon more than Che Dau as I'm a sucker for desserts that remind me of sticky rice treats. Both are actually not that sweet making it perfect for our dear grandmas and grandpas. 
Overall, it was a superb feast. I can't wait to go back for more!

Bawai's Vietnamese Kitchen is located at Ground Floor Uptown Parade, 36th Street, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. For inquiries or reservations, contact them at 0917 152 2924, (02) 812 2924 or bgc.store@bawaisgroup.com. You may also check them out on Facebook

Bawai's Vietnamese Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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