New Restaurant Alert: Go Beyond Pho and Banh Mi at Nha Em
This restaurant will transport you to the streets of Ho Chi Minh.
5/F Sky Park, SM Aura Premier, C5 Road corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) Walking into Nha Em feels like entering someone’s home, from the wood banisters ingeniously used as wall décor to cushions on wooden benches that’ll help you settle down as you wait for your meal. It helps that Nha Em is located at SM Aura’s Sky Park so you also get a view of the rooftop garden and the city’s skyline. But it isn’t just any home—traditional water puppets, which resemble little wooden dolls, line the shelves as well as porcelain jars. It all feels very Asian, or more specifically very Vietnamese.
“Nha Em means ‘my home,’” shares Melodee
Of course, the experience doesn’t stop at the décor. Melodi shares that their team traveled to Ho Chi Minh to get a taste of the culture and of course, the food. “We all went to Vietnam,” she says. “We experienced Vietnam, dined, went to the streets, because you can’t show your guests what Vietnam is like if you haven’t experienced it yourself.”
This dedication to bringing a taste of Vietnam to Manila extends to the menu. “We wanted to focus on home-cooked Vietnamese food,” says executive chef Kiko Asuncion. “The idea was to showcase Ho Chi Minh cooking, so we ate what the locals ate, we went to the restaurants the locals went to.”
It was quite a challenge, especially when you have to import almost all of the ingredients from Vietnam to bring in the flavors they tasted back in the country to Manila. (Exporting the fish sauce, for one, was non-negotiable.) Still, it all pays off, especially when you get to sample their offerings, which range from well-known classics like spring rolls and pho to less familiar-but-equally-promising
You can’t go wrong with having the Goi Cuon (P220) or fresh spring rolls for appetizers. The rolls, stuffed with carrots, cilantro, steamed prawns, and strips of steamed pork belly, are light and
Dau Hu Chien Trung Muoi
Another great appetizer is the Dau Hu Chien Trung Muoi (P260) or salted egg tofu. The salted egg coating is lip-smacking, with that familiar rich saltiness, but the crisp tofu keeps the dish from getting too overwhelming.
Canh Ga Chien Nuoc Mam
You’ll get why they had to import their fish sauce from Vietnam once you taste their Canh Ga Chien Nuoc Mam (P290) or fried chicken wings covered in fish sauce. The glaze has the kind of sweetness that’ll leave you licking your fingers clean, and the fish sauce adds a distinct flavor that’s not too salty and is actually quite citrusy, too.
Thit Kho To Trung Cuc
The Vietnamese fish sauce (or
Wrap it up in a mustard leaf
Don't forget to dip it in
The Nha Em team is a big fan of the Banh Xeo (P350); it should be enough to let you know that this one is a must-try. “It’s my all-time favorite,” shares Chef Kiko. “Malutong,
While Vietnamese food isn’t something new in the local food scene, it admittedly often hasn’t gone beyond the usual banh mi and pho. It’s great to find a restaurant dedicated to expanding our knowledge of the cuisine—plus it helps that they’re excellent at it. As Melodee puts it: “The best Vietnamese restaurant has to be us.” A lofty goal that certainly keeps them on their toes—good news for us, who now have more delicious Vietnamese food to feast on.
Photos by Jilson Tiu