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Manila: Highs & Lows at Cafe Mediterranean and Pho Hua

March 20, 2010

After a morning yoga class followed by some fast-paced window shopping through the Greenbelts, my sister and I decided to grab some lunch. As we were in Greenbelt 1 at the time (the original Greenbelt shopping complex), we headed for Cafe Mediterranean. Back in high school, my friends and I used to come here every once in a while for their delicious gyros. By the looks of things, nothing much had changed; the chairs looked the same, as did the tables, the walls and the rest of the furnishings and decor. Ah, nostalgia! I sat there reminiscing, excitedly waiting on the gyros that I remembered so fondly. Unfortunately, that lovely moment was quashed by the arrival and subsequent tasting of said gyros. It was dry, chewy and it wasn’t even hot! I hate wasting food, but we disliked them so much that we ended up just leaving them… it was that bad. What a shame.

At this point my mom calls and asks if we want to join her for lunch.

“Why, yes! Something good to eat would be great,” we replied.

So we walked a few shops down and met our mom at Pho Hua. Pho Hua, it turns out, is a huge chain of Vietnamese restaurants that started out in North America. They opened their first branch in San Jose in 1983 and have been expanding ever since. They currently have over 60 locations worldwide. I had no idea. Had never even heard of them before… mind you, I’ve lived in Europe for the last year and a half and in Australia for eight years before that (sadly, there aren’t any branches outside of North America, Canada and Asia… yet!).

My mom ordered the Bun Thit Nuong (vermicelli noodles with grilled pork, spring rolls and vegetables), my sister went with the classic Pho Bo (beef noodle soup), while I opted for the Chà Giò. Chà giò, if you’ve never had the pleasure of trying it, is fried rice paper rolls served with an assortment of fresh herbs, lettuce leaves and nuoc cham, the ubiquitous Vietnamese dipping sauce. The idea is to then wrap the rice paper rolls with the herbs in the lettuce leaves before plunging it into that most divine of dipping sauces. Arglyargry… yuuuum! It’s amazing what can be put together with the simplest of fresh ingredients. I absolutely adore Vietnamese cuisine and Pho Hua’s ghà giò did not disappoint. The chà giò were crisp and delicious, the greens were all fresh and vibrant in colour and flavour and the portion size was actually quite generous for an appetiser.

My sister’s pho was good, but my mom’s bun thit nuong and my chà giò were the heroes of the meal. With prices like theirs (bowls of pho start at P155), I don’t know why anyone would choose to frequent a greasy fast food chain over this one. I was thoroughly impressed. My mom and I went on a trip together to Hanoi for her birthday a couple of years ago and what I loved so much about the food we tried there was the honesty and the respect with which the ingredients are treated. We ate at tiny, road-side, we-only-serve-one-dish, hole-in-the-wall-type eateries as well as some of the top restaurants in the city and everything was amazing. At Pho Hua, they’ve honoured the principal of fresh ingredients and balanced flavours and not worried about trying to be anything fancier than a casual dining venue that one can stroll into, even by one’s self, and hunker down happily over a steaming bowl of beef noodle soup. Good for them. I’ll be back!


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PHO HUA

Telephonic Numerals +63 (2) 813 4740

Location Level 2, Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati, Metro Manila

Website www.phohoa.com

Grace them with your presence Any day from 11am. They close at midnight on Saturdays and Sundays; other days they close at 11pm.

And? According to their website, they have 11 branches in the Philippines (all of which are in Metro Manila). Great value for money.

__________

CAFE MEDITERRANEAN

Telephonic Numerals +63 (2) 751 9705

Location Greenbelt 1, Ayala Center, Makati, Metro Manila

Grace them with your presence Any day between 10am and 9pm.

And? I know everyone has off days, but the gyros we were served don’t qualify for a leniency plea. The hummus and the falafels were alright… but let’s face it: ‘dining’ here is not a value for money experience.

 

N

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