I am a fan of Asian cuisine. I love eating and cooking Asian food. If I had a cooking niche, it’s definitely Asian, although Turo always had a penchant for my pasta dishes, and the babies too. When choosing restaurants, Chinese is almost always on the top of our list, followed by the cuisine of other Asian countries. Lately, I seem to also want to explore the French and Spanish ones, mostly because of the wine, but got disappointed by a recent dinner in Hermanos (which was supposed to be an excellent Filipino-Spanish restaurant, but by our standards wasn’t). So now, it’s back to all things Asian.
From my experience, serving Asian food is foolproof. I don’t remember eating Asian and leaving a restaurant unsatisfied (p.s. my “Asian” category excludes Filipino food). Be it Korean, Thai or Vietnamese, and be it a fine dining type of restaurant or a small neighborhood eatery, I always enjoy my Asian dishes especially if I eat out with my family.
I consider it good practice to avoid the super fancy restaurants that should be obliged to serve excellent food considering the prices they charge. It’s always a treat to find a humble café and be amazed at the quality of its food rather than dine swankily but eat bland. Of course the affordability aspect will always get the upper hand, but every once in a while it’s also nice to splurge on great food with good company.
When we want to get adventurous and when we have the time to spare, I always want to eat outside shopping mall territory. The small carinderias found along eskinitas, home-based food businesses occupying the house garden or even the garage, and the numerous food shops lining office and school districts, appeal to me the most. Oftentimes, for accessibility’s sake, we’re left with the limited choices inside the malls.
Such was the case last week when Turo & I met up for lunch in Glorietta. I was surprised that this formerly huge shopping centre was reduced to only half its original size, with the ongoing construction of Glorietta 5. Hoping for a simple but satisfying lunch, we looked around inside twice but found nothing that suited our taste at the moment. We went to Landmark and remembered a nice Tapa King late lunch-early dinner we had the last time we were there. So we took a stroll outside and inspected the rows of restaurants that line Landmark and Glorietta and found Pho’bac.
Inside, Pho’bac has plain, clean interiors and only a handful of diners. Service was quick and with a smile. We ordered fish noodle soup, curried beef stew and a sticky rice dumpling. They offered generous serving portions and the food tasted great. It reminded me somewhat of Phuong, a Vietnamese restaurant in UP Los Baños that served authentic Vietnamese food cooked by the owner who was Vietnamese herself.
The soup was served first with bean sprouts and a sprig of mint basil. The large bowl was filled to the brim with perfectly cooked rice noodles, firm cubes of tofu and succulent fillets of I-dunno-what-kind-but-they-tasted-great fish. The broth was excellent and we finished the soup before we even had the chance to deconstruct its ingredients. Not to worry, there will be a next visit to this place.
At first I thought the beef stew came in too small a serving, but given how flavourful the dish was, it was definitely enough to share. The curry flavor came very mild, which is good for me because I’m not so much of a curry person, but I thought it could use a little more coconut cream. But my favourite was the dumpling, a pyramid of sticky rice filled with pork bits and a quail egg mixed in a number of Asian herbs. Like the noodle soup, this was again too good that we ended up savouring it rather than try to figure out how it was cooked.
The food at Pho’bac is the type that you don’t want to recreate at home. First because it’s plain delicious, but not too much flavour that your taste buds get confused. Second and most importantly because it’s affordable and you can keep coming back and even treat your friends without getting broke.