Having ‘phon’ with Vietnamese food

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Friday, July 5, 2013

FOR THOSE craving or wanting to try Vietnamese street food, the Abaca Group has eliminated the need to hop on a plane to have a satisfying bowl of pho.

Phat Pho: a Vietnamese Kitchen is the newest restaurant by the Abaca Group, which specifically brought in Vietnamese chef Hoang Lee to run the kitchen and to be sure the food was done right. Although ingredients like noodles and rice paper are easy to find here, chef Hoang insists on importing those items from Vietnam, along with spices, fish sauce, and other condiments at Phat Pho.

Most seating inside the restaurant is at small tables with high bar stools. An interesting feature of the restaurant interiors is the counter by the kitchen, similar to a noodle shop in Hong Kong. The seating makes for a more interactive atmosphere for people who come to eat alone or in small groups.

Abaca Group Phat Pho: a Vietnamese Kitchen
Chef Hoang Lee fires it up. (Ruel Rosello photo/Sun.Star Cebu)


The most popular item on the menu is, expectedly, the pho or traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup, done how it would be in Vietnam. Customers particularly like the “Pho Special,” which uses flavorful beef broth topped with shaved US angus beef, braised beef, homemade meatballs and tendon, and is served with condiments on the side: a wedge of lime, Hoisin sauce and pickled garlic. Another popular dish is the refreshing bun, or cold noodle salad with pickled carrots, daikon, crushed peanuts, fried shallots, cucumbers and other greens, and topped with a fried spring roll plus slices of Vietnamese sausage made by chef Hoang himself. Some other must-try items on the menu are the Banh Mi or Saigon Baguette, the satays, gari ga or chicken curry and bo kho, a Vietnamese beef stew.

The “Goi Cuon” rice paper rolls with chilled shrimp are hand-rolled and filled with vermicelli, carrots, daikon, peanuts, fresh herbs, bean sprouts and wood ear mushrooms. Every bite brings a satisfying crunch and with a very fresh and clean taste. The rice paper used is very thin and practically see-through, without the powdery texture or pasty taste that thicker rice paper sometimes comes with. Aside from shrimp, there are also choices of slow roasted pork and marinated tofu.

The rolls come with a side of peanut sauce and Chef Lee’s own version of nuoc mam, a sort of caramelized fish sauce from the Nha Trang area of Vietnam.

Add to the experience with Vietnamese coffee, which is filtered at the table and served with condensed milk in the mug, for a combination that is both strong and sweet.

People go to our restaurants knowing they’ll get good food served in a well-designed space,” says group executive chef Wade Watson. So far, Cebuanos have been responding very well to Phat Pho since it opened two and a half months ago, catering to an average of 100 to 150 diners per day. It can only seat a maximum of 30 persons at a time and doesn’t accept reservations, so it’s first come, first served, and served fast, much like on the streets of Vietnam.

Phat Pho is located at Crossroads in Banilad. It is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily and for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., except for Fridays and Saturdays when they are open until 11 p.m. There are also plans for new locations of Phat Pho in Design Center on AS Fortuna, SM Fiesta Strip and the new expansion of Ayala.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 06, 2013.


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