Tag Archives: vietnamese

Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwich Eatery

Sign

OPEN: Monday to Saturday 12:00pm until 9:00pm, Closed Sundays
PAYMENT: Cash Only
SEATING: Indoor/Non-Smoking, Seating for Approximately 30 People
TAKE AWAY: Encouraged, All Menu Items Available for Take Out
DELIVERY: Available for Local Area, Additional 50 Pesos Outside 3km
LOCAL PHONE #: (045) 888-5805
CATERING & SPECIAL EVENTS Available, Contact Rex Soriano at Above # for Details
MENU: See Attached PDF, Prices and Menu as of Feb. 19, 2014
LOCATION: See Map Below


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The Lost Art of Sandwich Making in the Philippines

I recently returned from a quick trip to Thailand. One of the first meals I ate was at a place I’d typically avoid at all costs while on vacation. I ate at Subway. In fact I ate at Subway probably three or four times during the course of my week long visit.

You’re probably saying to yourself: “Chris, why are you talking about Subway when your whole concept for SleepEatGolf is about eating where the locals eat, street food and hole in the wall types of places?”

Why was I eating at Subway for $5 to $8 (sandwich only!) when the local foods in Thailand (particularly the street foods and small cafes) are incredibly fresh, delectable and only about $2 to $3 for an entire meal? I’ll tell you why.

It is near impossible to find a delicious sandwich here in Angeles City. Once upon a time there was a place called Subdelicious that allegedly put out a decent sandwich. That place is long gone and was replaced by Phillies which according to many people is very hit and miss. I personally haven’t been there in a few years due to a poor experience.

Don’t get the wrong idea, there’s plenty of places in Angeles to get a sandwich. Almost every hotel has a version of the highly overrated (yet very popular with Filipinos) Club sandwich. There’s also a couple of deli type stores/restaurants that will piece together a mediocre Subway-like sandwich for you. But for some reason those have never hit the spot for me and were always underwhelming. I was craving a sandwich that wasn’t boring.

The Banh Mi Sandwich Invasion

While there are always rumors of a Subway franchise opening in Angeles City none have ever come to fruition. Hopes were high with the opening of Marquee Mall and the SM Clark extension but they never materialized.

Subway’s absence and the lack of a quality sandwich available has opened up the market to one of the best sandwiches in the world: The Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich. As reported on SleepEatGolf previously there are now several Vietnamese style restaurants that have staked a claim in Angeles and each one does their own version or versions of the world famous sandwich.

BBQ Pork

Thankfully, each restaurant has their own spin on how to create this masterpiece that balances the subtle and unique flavors that comes only from Vietnamese cuisine. I can honestly report that there are finally establishments in Angeles City to experience a proper, high quality sandwich that will make you forget your wishes of seeing a Subway franchise open here.

Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwich Eatery

I found Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwich Eatery completely by accident. I was traveling to Angeles City Proper looking for a company to have business cards printed. Fortunately I made a wrong turn and found myself staring at a small cafe with a sign simply reading “Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwich Eatery.” I had just finished lunch but the place immediately struck me as a place I needed to return to very soon. Nothing made sense.

  1. I was far away from where most tourists ever visit in Angeles.
  2. I didn’t see any other foreigners nearby.
  3. There were no other restaurants in the adjacent vicinity.

These three things signaled to me that I may have stumbled upon a great find. In my experience these are usually the places serving up the best food.

Vietnamese Food

Some workers were outside painting words on a brick wall that looked eerily similar to what one would see at a modern American style cafe. I could barely see into the eatery as the shades were drawn due to the hot afternoon sun. What I could make out was an interior that looked clean, urban and modern. All of this struck me as very American in style and design. I decided that I would be back very soon to explore what quality of food this previously unknown, unheard of place was serving up.

Inside

Kitchen

The Return to Banh Mi

A few days later I was driving back to Angeles City Proper to pick up my business cards and planned on stopping by Banh Mi to sample their sandwich and get a better look at the place.  When I walked in the place was packed with 30 well dressed Filipinos. Time seemed to stand still and the festive environment changed to complete silence as I walked in and everyone stared at me.  I immediately sensed that I had dropped in uninvited on a private lunch.

This faux pas didn’t stop me and no one was asking me to leave so I walked up to the counter and ordered the BBQ Pork Banh Mi sandwich for 95 pesos (about $2.16). The luncheon seemed to be wrapping up anyway and I found a seat to dig in to the sandwich. I was immediately blown away at the high quality and deliciousness that danced around in my mouth and taste buds. I had finally found the elusive sandwich I’d been searching and hoping for in Angeles City.

Inside

The Next Day

I was so impressed with the sandwich at Banh Mi that I went back with my girlfriend the next day for lunch. I couldn’t wait to share this new find with her and I now had an excuse to try additional things on the menu.  We ordered:

  • Fresh Spring Rolls
  • Fried Spring Rolls
  • BBQ  Pork Banh Mi
  • Chicken Banh Mi

I also had a chance to speak with owner and Filipino American Rex Soriano. Rex has an impressive and extensive background in the restaurant business working and living in the United States for half his life. He’s worked for well known restaurants  and chefs like Nobu, Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck. He opened Banh Mi about 2 years ago in Angeles  City Proper after finding a common love of Vietnamese cuisine and culture with his half-Vietnamese, half Filipina wife and full Vietnamese mother-in-law. He has future plans to open a branch in Manila and will occasionally add specialty items of his own creation to the current menu. More info on Rex can be found at the end of this article in a sit down video interview.

Employees

Menu & Food Review

The menu at Banh Mi is refreshingly small. Too many restaurants here give you a menu the size of a Bible. I usually take this as sign that they do everything pretty average and nothing is spectacular. Many times there are several items that are not even available.  Banh Mi specializes in 10 simple and authentic Vietnamese dishes and each item that I’ve tried so far have exceeded my expectations. They also have authentic Vietnamese style iced coffee available.

Fresh Spring Rolls – This delicious 2 piece item for 99 pesos (around $2.25)  comes with your choice of a peanut sauce or a pineapple alubebe (fermented fish sauce with pineapple) sauce. A well made, fresh spring roll is a healthy and filing option that is a great change of pace from your typical fried  variety.

Light Snack

The filling consists of Vietnamese noodles, crisp and fresh cucumbers, lettuce and basil along with shrimp and pork wrapped in rice paper. I went with the peanut sauce which was just sweet enough and complemented the rolls nicely. All in all the fresh spring rolls were spectacular.

Fried Spring Rolls – An order of 7 pieces comes with fresh lettuce, cilantro and a Vietnamese dipping sauce for 95 pesos (around $2.16). These were fried to perfection and nicely filled on the inside with a ground pork, noodles and carrot mixture. They were crisp and not oily. The sauce was vinegary and slightly sweet with a hint of garlic. While fried foods aren’t the healthiest option, wrapping these up in the lettuce and cilantro takes a lot of the guilt away and makes you feel like it’s a healthy snack.

Crispy

Meaty

BBQ Pork & Chicken Banh Mi – As the name suggests this establishment specializes in the Banh Mi sandwiche. This is the jewel in the crown of this cafe. The owner Rex Soriano has a deep rooted love for the Banh Mi sandwich and has created his own 3 versions with the help and guidance of his Vietnamese mother-in-law. His cold cut sandwich is made using pork belly and Vietnamese ham both of which he cures and processes in house. The sandwiches are priced from 90 to 99 pesos each (around $2.05 to $2.25).

The BBQ pork has a unique taste and texture. The bread is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. There’s a subtle pate spread which lifts the sandwich to another level, but most people (including myself) who despise liver will never realize what the unique flavor is. The meaty filling is topped with a dash of soy sauce, fresh cucumber, pickled carrots, pickled daikon radish and fresh cilantro.

Roasted Foul

Each layer of the sandwich is expressed in each bite and the flavors that mix together are heavenly. For those who want an added punch a siracha sauce is available table-side and with take out orders. There is also chili garlic sauce available that goes great with the sandwich.

For those less adventurous the chicken sandwich is the way to go. It’s depth of flavor is not nearly as exciting and complex as the BBQ pork or cold cuts, but it’s still a tasty sandwich nonetheless.

The Search is Over — Angeles City Now Has Bona Fide Sandwich Eateries

After years and years of searching for a sandwich that was on par with Subway the Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich and cuisine has arrived in Angeles City in force. There are now several restaurants that serve this distinctive, appetizing sandwich. Each place has their own spin or twist on how they prepare the sandwich and each restaurant is serving up a viable option for meeting my sandwich eating needs.

Flavor Nation

I’m looking forward to trying the rest of Rex’s dishes on frequent future visits. Tourists and expats alike should see another side of Angeles and check out the creations of Rex Soriano who is likely one of the best chefs in town you don’t know about. He’s focusing on food he loves, keeps the menu small to maintain authentic tastes and has a cozy cafe that foreigners will find warm, familiar and welcoming. If you’ve lived here for any number of years you owe it to yourself to get your hands on a proper sandwich at Banh Mi Vietnamese Eatery.

Below is an interview with Rex Soriano, owner of Banh Mi Vietnamese Eatery. Check out and subscribe to our SleepEatGolf YouTube Channel for additional videos coming soon.

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Rating: 8.8/10 (4 votes cast)

Viet Garden Vietnamese Restaurant

Signage

OPEN: Daily 11:00am — 2:00am
PAYMENT: Cash Only
SEATING: Indoor/Non-Smoking, Outdoor/Smoking
MENU: See Attached PDF, prices and menu as of Nov. 12, 2013
LOCATION: See Map Below


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New Vietnamese Restaurants Continue to Open in Angeles

It seems like only yesterday that the only way to sample authentic Vietnamese style foods in Angeles City was to book a flight direct to Vietnam. This, like most things in South East Asia, has changed dramatically and rapidly since our review of Pho Hanoi on September 25, 2013.

There have been three additional Vietnamese restaurants that have opened in Angeles City in just a couple of months. It seems Vietnamese cuisine is quickly catching on and adding its unique taste sensation to the diverse culinary city which was lacking in these types of food establishments previously. One of them is Viet Garden.

Vietnamese Cuisine

Quaint and Cozy Cafe with a Diverse Menu

Viet Garden is a small cafe that recently opened in the new stalls along M.A. Roxas HWY near an area locally referred to as Checkpoint. The venue is small but nicely and simply decorated and branded. Wood carved chairs and plates are emblazoned with logos. There is outdoor seating for smokers and plenty of seats inside.  Parking is not an issue as this newly built complex has plenty of spaces available.

Non-Smoking

The cafe has a unexpectedly large and diverse menu for the size of the restaurant providing you ample opportunity to grab a light snack if you’re new to the cuisine or a full meal for those familiar with this type of food. Some interesting items on the menu include:

  • Goi Da Ca (Viet salad with stingray skin)
  • Ca Kho (catfish simmered in Viet sauce)
  • Cua-Um (crab cooked Viet style)
  • Banh Xeo (Vietnamese crepe)

The menu also includes more familiar favorites like:

  • Goi Cuon (fresh spring rolls)
  • Cha Gio (fried spring rolls)
  • Banh Mi (sandwich)
  • Pho Bo (beef noodle soup)

A few items were marked “Unavailable” on my visit, but there were plenty of items to choose from on the menu.

Additional Seating

Vietnamese Cuisine for a Small Snack or Full Meal

My visit to Viet Garden was a bit too early for lunch and all I really wanted was a small snack to share with my girlfriend. Stopping by Viet Garden was an ideal choice as I knew I could grab something quick, light and fairly inexpensive.

Our order was Cha Gio (friend spring rolls) and two Banh Mi sandwiches. Typically I prefer to order several items on a first time visit in order to get a real feel for the food at an establishment, but due to the timing I really only wanted a small snack.

In cases like this I have a small checklist of criteria and find it best to order the common foolproof items that should be prepared perfectly and still gives me a good idea about the taste and quality of the foods.  My checklist in cases like this is:

  1. Visual authenticity — Does it look like the pictures in the menu or what it should look like?
  2. Taste and texture authenticity — Does it taste authentic? Are the textures right?
  3. Pricing — Are the items prices fairly for what is served?
  4. Overall satisfaction — Am I satisfied overall with everything about the items?

First up were the Cha Gio (fried spring rolls). Six plump, golden brown, ground pork and vegetable filled rolls served with a sweet and sour sauce, cucumber sticks, basil leaves and lettuce.

Fried Spring Rolls

It’s almost impossible to mess up fried spring rolls. The rolls were filled adequately with a seasoned pork and vegetable medley. They were crisp on the outside and steaming hot on the inside. I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed with a fried spring roll and that streak still stands. These were delicious.

The raw vegetables on the side gave me an opportunity to be slightly inventive. I put a spring roll on a piece of lettuce, added some of the cucumber sticks, basil leaves and then dunked them in the sauce. Now I was eating “healthy” fried spring rolls. 

I like the presentation, the tastes and textures were right and at 145 pesos (approximately $3.37) for 6 pieces seemed very fair. All boxes on my checklist were covered and this dish was a great snack by itself. Fortunately my girlfriend was with me so I was able to sample one more item.

The Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich has many variations but some standards do exist. First, it should be served on a light and airy french style baguette which may be slightly sweet or not. Second, it should have some sort of Vietnamese sauce in lieu of mayonnaise or mustard. Typically the sauce will be a fish, siracha, hoisin, a sweet vinegary sauce or any combination of these. Third, the filling will be a seasoned, grilled chicken or pork. Fourth, it will be topped with various fresh herbs and vegetables which can vary greatly. Sometimes additional sauces will be served on the side.

Vietnamese Sandwich

Viet Garden’s Banh Mi is served with seasoned, grilled chicken. The sandwich was of decent size (particularly for the price) and the bread was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. It appeared to be freshly baked. There was a decent amount of filling and it had a similar sweet and vinegary sauce to what was served with the spring rolls. The sandwich was topped with cucumber spears, shredded daikon radish, carrots and fresh cilantro.

Banh Mi

At 75 pesos (approximately $1.74) this sandwich is a steal. Something similar at a Subway sandwich shop would run you $4.00 to $5.00. The Banh Mi is a light and flavorful sandwich due to the use of various array of herbs and vegetables on the crusty flakey bread. It’s a completely unique style and flavor that is truly Vietnamese at its heart. There are a lot of complaints that there’s no where in Angeles City to get a decent submarine sandwich but this is no longer true with the addition of Vietnamese restaurants.

Overall my total bill for 2 Banh Mi sandwiches, 1 order of fried spring rolls, 2 ice teas and tip came to 385 peso (approximately $8.95). I thought this was a tremendous value for the money and a fantastic snack that left me fully satisfied.

I look forward to visiting Viet Garden again soon to try some of their other items. If they’re as good as the two staples I sampled on my first visit I’m sure I won’t be disappointed with the rest of the menu. It will be interesting to see how many more Vietnamese restaurants open up in Angeles City and how the competition determines who will reign supreme in this cuisine.

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Rating: 8.7/10 (7 votes cast)

Pho Hanoi Vietnamese Restaurant

Outdoor Sign

OPEN: Daily 10:00am — 10:00pm
PAYMENT: Cash Only
SEATING: Indoor/Non-Smoking, Outdoor/Smoking
MENU: See Attached PDF, prices and menu as of Sept. 22, 2013
LOCATION: See Map Below


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The Mystique of Vietnamese Cuisine

Those who have traveled extensively in South East Asia and have made trips to Vietnam usually come back to the Philippines and tell their friends how great the food is. They’ll dazzle you mythical tales of elusive street food carts and restaurants that serve some of the finest delicacies ever produced for less than a dollar…if you can find them. Names, exact locations and what they actually ate elude them as their eyes glaze over and they continue their story gazing in the distance as if in some sort of memory induced food trance.

Once you snap them out of their tranquil dream state you can usually get some basic information and descriptions, but it’s always the same items repeated time and time again:

  • Fried and fresh spring rolls
  • Pho
  • Some unidentified meat on a stick
  • A delicious sandwich with some bar-b-qued meat and vegetables
  • Salad that had noodles and meat with a sweet, salty and vinegary taste

You may recognize a few of these items and think you’re making progress, then the person will snap back to their teary eyed dream state of reminiscing and tell you that you just don’t understand…you just don’t understand. These people have been to ‘Nam and have been forever changed.

The Vietnamese Have Arrived in the Philippines

A headline like this in the 60′s and 70′s would have had an entirely different reaction than it does today. On July 19, 2013 Pho Hanoi opened it’s doors in the Korea Town area of Friendship Highway in Angeles City. I ate there two weeks after opening and found it to be a welcome dining addition to this part of town which mostly has Korean restaurants. It was better than I expected for a new restaurant.

My friend Zack and I were out and about one late night searching for a place to get a bite to eat. As we were driving aimlessly trying to decide between Jollibee fast food or driving to the Fields area I casually mentioned that there was a newer Vietnamese place that had opened a few months back. He slammed on the brakes and immediately turned around. Our choice had been made.

Pho Hanoi Food Experience

Outdoor Street Signage

Pho Hanoi restaurant is a small place with indoor non-smoking and outdoor smoking sections. Their menu is small compared to other places in town, but it has a good selection of appetizers, vermicelli (Bun), noodles, rice and sandwich choices. Our servers brought us out a complimentary sweet, hot , lime flavored tea while we looked through the concise menu. The server told us the restaurant is owned by a Vietnamese person and assured us that everything was authentically prepared.

Complimentary Tea ServiceNon-Smoking Dining RoomSmoking Seating

 We ordered:

  1. Cha Gio — Fried spring rolls
  2. Bun Ga Nuong Cha Gio — Vermicelli noodle salad with spring roll
  3. Pho Hanoi — Combination pho
  4. Banh Mi Sandwich — Bar-b-que chicken sanwich

The Cha Gio arrived first. Six pieces of tightly wrapped, stout, pork filled rolls with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. The rice paper gives the spring roll a crisp outside and slightly chewy inside. I’ve had spring rolls with thinner wrappers, but I liked the thicker texture of these.

Fried Spring Rolls

Our main courses arrived soon after and I thought the presentation of my Bun Ga Nuong Cha Gio was beautiful and I couldn’t wait to dig into this unique dish. I hardly knew where to start. I wondered if  I should add some of the chili sauces that were on the table, mix the whole thing up or eat a little portion of noodle, lettuce, spring roll and meat separately. I ended up giving everything a light toss and then got a little of each ingredient on my fork.

The taste of this dish was incredible! It was crunchy, savory, spicy, salty and sweet all at the same time and all the different textures were unique. I knew immediately that I’d found my go-to Vietnamese food dish. Near the end I added some of the chili sauces just to see how they would affect the taste. My conclusion was that this dish is great without any additional sauces unless you love your food super spicy.

Bar-b-que Pork Noodle Salad

Quick note — Pho Hanoi is selling their homemade chili oil sauce. Our lovely and friendly waitress models with a jar that I believe is available for 250 Peso.

Waitress and Chili Sauce

Zack’s Pho Hanoi looked a little underwhelming. I had tried a small bowl of the pho on my first visit and felt the same way then. For the large portion at $6.00 it looked small. It was nothing like the large, overflowing, steaming bowls of noodle pho I’d eaten in Los Angeles Vietnamese restaurants and his side vegetables looked wilted and sparse. Zack also felt that there wasn’t nearly enough noodles (an extra portion is available for an additional charge of approximately $1.35). It did have several meat ingredients that looked appetizing and Zack had no problem eating it all. Overall he felt the broth, meats and noodles were very tasty. Unfortunately pho does not appear to be the star dish at Pho Hanoi.

Noodle Soup

But all was not lost! We still had the Banh Mi bar-b-que chicken sandwich which I graciously offered to share. Fortunately for me, Zack declined. Having only heard of the famous Banh Mi sandwich I was anxious to sink my teeth into it. I was not disappointed. The crusty yet soft bread had soaked up the various unfamiliar sauces they put on it and all of the vegetables were very crisp. The bar-b-qued chicken was the perfect amount for the size of the sandwich and was spicy and delicious. For $3.40 I thought this was a fantastic value for the money and one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in the Philippines. When I’m dying for a sandwich and the nearest Subway is 30 to 45 minutes drive away, I’m heading to Pho Hanoi for this sandwich.

Crispy Bread and Spicy Chicken

Overall I was extremely pleased with my meal as a whole. I enjoyed every dish I ordered and would order all of them again. Zack was slightly disappointed, but not enough to nix the place on a go back. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t order the pho again and we both agreed that it’s not up to the high standard that we expected for the price. But the menu has enough other items that are reasonably priced. My suggestion is to start off with an appetizer and order 2 or 3 (depending on the number in your party) other items to get a taste of everything and share them family style.

Our total bill came in at 775 Peso (approximately $17.75) with tip. Zack’s Pho Hanoi pho was the most expensive and most disappointing of the items we ordered. If you took that out of the equation I think there is good value for your money here and it’s a unique cuisine that (surprisingly) isn’t easily found in the Philippines. But that is changing fast.

More New Arrivals

Pho Hanoi now has some competition in Angeles City as another Vietnamese (allegedly owned by a different Vietnamese person) has opened in the new shopping complex across the street from Jollibee in an area commonly called Checkpoint. We’ll be checking them out soon for a full review. I’ve also heard rumors of yet another Vietnamese restaurant soon to open but don’t have any other details as of this writing. Finally I’ve also heard whispers of a Vietnamese restaurant located somewhere in Angeles City Proper that has been open for years. It seems as though the Vietnamese are finally gaining some ground on the culinary battlefield here in Angeles City.

View From Friendship Highway

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Rating: 9.8/10 (6 votes cast)