From their staple, pho (beef and noodle soup), to spring rolls, Vietnamese cuisine uses a wide variety of herbs like basil, coriander and mint. Raw or stir-fried vegetables are included in almost every meal to accommodate the Buddhist practice of non-killing. Most meals also have a dipping sauce on the side, which is usually fish sauce. And as it is in the Philippines, rice is a staple dish in Vietnam. They also have their share of exotic food like balut (fertilized duck egg), snails and silkworms.
Vietnamese Chorizo Rolls (P130)
But in spite of its similarities to Filipino cuisine, Vietnamese food is not as commonly found in the country as, say, Italian. That fact might well be a good selling point for the contemporary Vietnamese cuisine served at Aquaknox on Pasay Road in Makati. "We made it a bit familiar to everyone. We fine-tuned [the menu to suit] the Filipino palate, which appreciates a lot of tastiness compared to herbiness," says Francis Sison, Aquaknox Sales, Marketing and Events manager.
Aquaknox has a few meat dishes to satisfy meat-loving Pinoys, but their specialty is the seafood, which dominates the menu.
Executive Chef Danny Vu, one of the restaurant's owners, is also the chef behind Crustacean, which serves contemporary Vietnamese cuisine in San Francisco and Beverly Hills.
The resto's muted colors and clean lines accentuated with bamboo pieces and cascading water on the walls give it a modern Asian feel. From Tuesdays to Saturdays, Aquaknox transforms into the Aqua Lounge at night where DJs, cocktails, wines and martinis take the spotlight.
Contemporary Vietnamese food
The specialties at Aquaknox include traditional Vietnamese rolls that come with sweet peanut sauce. The Vietnamese Chorizo Rolls (P130) has jicama, carrots, egg strips and dried shrimps, the chorizo adding a salty kick to the fresh vegetables. Meanwhile, the salmon and mango in the Salmon Spring Rolls (P145) give it a milder taste.
A must-try is Chef Danny's Special Crab (P850 for medium, P1190 for large, P1390 for extra large and P1750 for jumbo with an additional P100 for de-shelled crab). The pan-roasted crab, which garlic lovers will like, is a delicious deviation from the healthy greens. Actor and former Optical Media Board Chairman Edu Manzano comes in just to eat the crab, says Sison.
Meat lovers can try the Vietnamese Kalbi (P340), tender grilled short ribs with a light sweet-salty taste because of its soy, garlic, ginger and sesame oil marinade.
Aquaknox is located at 800 Arnaiz Ave. (formerly Pasay Road) cor. Amorsolo Street, San Lorenzo Village, Makati City. Tel. No. 894-3380 and 0922-8980467. Open daily for lunch and dinner.