Colorful Art Goes With Intense Flavors at This New Vietnamese Bistro in Makati

Propaganda serves up classics with a twist.

Propaganda Bistro
2/F Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City
Open from 11 a.m. to 10 a.m. (Sunday to Thursday) and 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Friday to Saturday)

PHOTO BY Ian Santos

( It’s the art that first catches your eye: Bright and highly saturated murals grab your attention and never let go. They depict various scenes of Vietnamese life in a distinctive look: Propaganda art, an art style that’s an integral part of Vietnam’s history. Once used as a call to arms and as a way to boost production during wartime, propaganda posters have become accessible art used to decorate Vietnamese homes and establishments.

PHOTO BY Ian Santos
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

Propaganda art’s importance in Vietnamese culture is a big reason why Propaganda Bistro makes it a huge part of their brand, from the murals to the colorful napkins and coasters with bold prints—in fact, the Manila branch looks almost exactly like the flagship in Vietnam. “At Propaganda, we wanted the perfect marriage of culture, art, history, and food,” says Patricia Buzon, marketing manager for the Ramen Nagi group, who brought in the restaurant from Ho Chi Minh to Manila.

PHOTO BY Ian Santos
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

Just as how the murals are a marriage of old and new—one quote painted on the walls, “Moi ngay ta chon mot mon an,” or ““Every day we chose a new dish,” is a play on the traditional Vietnamese song “Every Day I Choose a New Joy”—the menu, too, has the classics done with a modern flair. “We want diners to see that Vietnamese food is more than just banh mi and pho,” says Buzon. “And Propaganda Bistro is the perfect fit.”

The Fried Spring Rolls (P250/five pieces) have a savoriness that's more intense than the usual.
PHOTO BY Ian Santos
Meatball Banh Mi
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

Not to say you should skip the classic Vietnamese sandwich: It’d be a shame to miss out on the Meatball Banh Mi (P350). Though the intense flavors of meatballs cooked in a chunky tomato sauce seem more Western than Asian, they’re the perfect foil to the classic banh mi fixings of pickled carrots and radish, herbs, and a velvety liver paté, all stuffed in a baguette with the right crunchy-chewy balance.

Hué Rice Noodle Soup With Beef, Fresh Greens, and Bean Sprouts
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

While pho is on the menu, dining at Propaganda is the perfect time to have the lesser known Hué Rice Noodle Soup With Beef, Fresh Greens, and Bean Sprouts (P450). Propaganda’s take on the bon bun hué is a bowl chock full of punchy flavors, most notably the spicy zest of lemongrass, which makes the beef broth even heartier.

Bún w/ BBQ Pork, Fried Spring Rolls, and Vegetables
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

The heft of the Bún w/ BBQ Pork, Fried Spring Rolls, and Vegetables (P450) is not to be underestimated, though the mix of rice noodles and fresh herbs and vegetables are light on the palate, with chunks of barbecued pork adding the jolt of sweet-smoky flavor to shake things up. Still, while easy to chow down, this bowl lands heavy on the belly—you’ll want to either share this or have this while hungry.

Crunchy Tri-Coloured Rice Bowl With BBQ Chicken and Fried Egg
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

The Crunchy Tri-Coloured Rice Bowl With BBQ Chicken and Fried Egg (P350) is perhaps the best showcase of what Propaganda Bistro is trying to do: Use Vietnamese ingredients and flavors to create something uniquely theirs. While this fried rice bowl isn’t exactly traditional, the flavors are familiar: The char of the barbecue chicken, the crunch of the rice mixed with vegetables, all topped off with a fried egg.

Thick and rich coconut cream makes the Sticky Coconut Rice W/ Fresh Mango and Coconut Cream (P150) even more decadent.
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

With bold in-your-face art and a menu that’s familiar but not quite, Propaganda Bistro isn’t exactly what you’d picture a Vietnamese restaurant in Manila to be. It’s a side of Vietnam we haven’t seen often in the local food scene, and with Propaganda now thriving in Makati, perhaps that’s about to change.

Photos by Ian Santos

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