Hanoi, a place close to my heart. After my trip last year my eyes were opened to the Hanoi food and coffee culture. In a place where food is treated like a religion, expect their exceptional dishes to leave a lasting mark.
That’s how I felt and ever since I’ve been hunting for the best pho and bún chà available in Manila. I’ve tried several restaurants like Ba Noi’s, Pho Hoa, and Pho Bac. After a long wait, I finally hear about this restaurant franchise straight from Hanoi, I was beyond excited to try it. They’ve been heavily been boosted by their social media ads and partnership with Booky.
Those wooden chairs and tables on the outside looked familiar. The same vibe I had when walking thru the small streets of the Old Quarter.
The place was quite spacious, and the condiments on the table were what you would expect while eating in the sidewalks. It’s quietly located at the corner of Unit 111, 8760 Residences, Santol cor Aranga St, San Antonio, Makati.
Bún Chà- the Quintessence of Hanoian Cuisine
It has long been a specialty of Hanoi. This dish represents the northern region and has been part of the Hanoian’s culture. The dish is often served at noon, in summer when the intense heat makes people go in for something cool, light but flavorful enough. Fresh rice vermicelli with grilled pork is an ideal for such days. Bún Chà is absolutely an art, in such a way so that tasters could feel best the sophistication of vermicelli, grilled pork and herbs all well combining together.
It is not so difficult to find a Bún Chà store in Hanoi. On every street of the capital, between 9 a.m and 10 a.m, smoke from meat grilling flies to every corner, carrying along sweet-smelling of grilled chopped meat, which can make anyone passing by feel appetizing.
These two photos were taken during my Vietnam Trip last year. Read more about our Hanoi Travel here.
I was drawn to the scent of grilled meats along Old Quarter I learned what it was. Bún Chà is a dish from Hanoi comprising of grilled fatty pork(bun) served with a side of white rice noodles(cha). It also comes with a dipping sauce and fresh herbs.
Upon seeing the poster above and had been used to promote their restaurant, I asked the waiter if this was where President Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate at in Hanoi, he told me that it was. Upon researching, I found it wasn’t.
Hanoi Corner’s Version
Composition of the Dish
My long wait to finally try Bún Chà in Manila had been in vain. The vegetables that were ever so bountiful and fresh in my trip turned into stale lettuce that looked like it came from leftovers of Wendy’s salad bar, the bean sprouts looked like it was just grabbed from a bin in the supermarket and wasn’t even properly cleaned before serving it to our table.
The sauce that carries the dish should be of moderate taste that is sweet enough with the elegant sour of vinegar. The grilled pork is soft, smooth-tongued with a strong taste of grilled onion. Hanoi Corner’s version turned out to be too sweet and the mixture of the taste aren’t that balanced, to begin with.
The seared barbecued meats with their juices dripping into my broth turned out to be 3 pieces of dried flat meatballs and 2 pieces of pork that were cold to the touch.
These ingredients are already available here locally in the Philippines anyway and can be sourced at a reasonably priced as compared to Italian or Mediterranean restaurants where they need to source out cheese, vegetables that aren’t normally available in Southeast Asia. I just cannot fathom why serve a mediocre version of a dish that supposed to be the flagship carrier of the restaurant? Bún Chà is the quintessence of Hanoian cuisine and sadly it wasn’t well represented with love by Hanoi Corner.
It’s unfortunate that although we already have a lot of dishes here that can compete to what you would get from their original countries, this was sadly not one of them.
On the other hand, the serving of the Phở was alright. For 200 PHP, they served a reasonable tasting phò, again incomparable but it was much more appealing than the other dishes. The rice noodles were perfectly cooked and bouncy with every chew. The broth though needs more flavor and a cleaner taste. Again, what lacks in every serving are the side of mint, coriander, and other leafy vegetables as you would see in Hanoi that sells Phở.
The best thing we had was the brown coffee with the classic steel filter. You can already tell that this was good coffee because of the aroma. Vietnam uses strong Robusta beans that produce that concentrated flavor. See our post on Hanoi, for more detail on how this works.
Good Points for:
- Airiness of the space and ventilation
- Appeal and Aesthetics
- Social media hype efforts?
Bad Points for:
- The clueless staff
- FLAVOUR IS EVERYTHING: Below average taste of their flagship main menu and other selections
- Clogged up toilet
Hanoi Corner reminds me of a blind date. You don’t know how he looks like, what he sounds like, unknowingly curious about his personality. Hearing about him with your chatty friends or thru the use if the internet, you still have a vague indication of who he really is leaving you intrigued. So you dress up, put on your makeup, scared yet prepared for what may come. The date opens you to discover someone you couldn’t have fathom or dreamed up, the kind that leaves you smitten and anxious because you do not know what will happen to your encounter.
He takes your expectation and throws it in the trashcan and gives you something that will make you say that why did I ever waste gas going to this date. You blame your friends why the hell they ever talked you into going to this blind date in the 1st place- These chatty friends are Booky and Facebook’s boosted social media advertisements.
Their promise of “From Hanoi with Love” as their tagline was actually an unrequited love that was never felt when we went there that Saturday afternoon.
We’re still psyched about the valiant effort of bringing in Hanoi cuisine to Manila as it is a certain specialty niche to the dining scene. We believe that there will always be a room for improvement. I am hoping that Hanoi Corner will improve on its flagship menu selections as it has lots of potentials to cater to us Filipinos. I’d probably be back for their coffee and spring rolls should I ever find myself in San Antonio Makati area.
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Unit 111, 8760 Residences, Santol cor Aranga Sts., San Antonio Village,, Makati,, Makati, Metro Manila
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