I’ve been hearing about this place for quite a while from my friend Anna since her office is situated in the same building. She says there were good things and not so great things in here and since Mig and I were in the neighborhood, we decided to have lunch here. This is a hole in the wall with a nice sign outside. Ba Noi tries to capture the hawker slash side street cafes in Ho Chi Minh city. In the same way, I wanted to take Mig here so that I can get him all excited about our trip to Vietnam in December.
So here’s what we had:
Goi cuon – fresh spring rolls: This was a transparent rice paper with shrimp, vermicelli and lettuce inside. The wrapping was nice and the roll looked nice and plump but the peanut sauce was a bland, it tasted like it was extended to the highest degree (I like mine robust and thick, with lots of ground peanuts!). Closeness to the real thing 2 out of 10…We ate in this real scary (yes scary as in a bug crawled up my dad’s arm) in Vietnam but we were so curious since the place was so full and people were just waiting in line for chairs…their Goi Cuon is my benchmark.
Goi buol Tom thit – Shrimp and Pomelo Salad : The salad was served with prawn crackers. The seafood was “kinilaw”(marinated) in a sauce was that was sour and sweet. The squid was very tender and the prawn cracker added a really great texture to the dish.
This reminds me of the shrimp and lotus root salad in Vietnam (which is my favorite dish there!), the pickled lotus root is slightly sweetish and the sauce in Ba Noi tried to recreate this taste. I liked this dish the most among everything we ordered. This reminded me of Ho Chi Minh City a lot (despite lacking the pickled lotus root)!
Pho Hai San – Seafood noodle soup: Funny! The seafood noodle soup seems to have a chicken soup base which was surprising. Hmmm…not quite happy with this one. It didn’t really appeal to me as much as I would like. The good news is the seafood were cooked perfectly. And it had a hint of coriander. It just felt a little odd because chicken soup + seafood is just weird to me.
Mi Xao Don – Meat and Vegetable in Crispy Egg Noodles : Mig loves these kinds of noodles and I’m glad he ordered it. These noodles are fried to a crisp and are topped with a delicate gravy sauce that softens some of the parts up, which creates a wonderful array of different textures. The gravy was subtle, giving more room for the egg noodles flavor to come out. I’m not really a fan of gravy noodles but this was pretty good…not great but good. I didn’t really try this in Vietnam so I don’t have a bench mark. I do eat this in a lot of Chinese restaurants here in Manila.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee – Coffee in Vietnam is what made me appreciate what good coffee is. In Ho Ch Minh City, they have tons of coffee places — from places that look like starbucks to places in the sidewalk offering the same thing. Vietnamese coffee has one very cool characteristic which makes it so good for me: It tastes like dark chocolate. Ba Noi Iced Coffee, could be stronger…but it is a pretty good substitute for a quick fix. I brew my own Viet coffee at home because I got so fixated, I took home a few kilos of ground Trung Nguyen Coffee and froze it…and I also got a hang coffee grinder and those little stainless drip cups. Well…I say this place has it pretty good..but not quite again.
Overall, I say this place…is okay. To me, the variety in its fast food counterpart — Pho Hoa is much better since you have a good array of choices and on a good day that place actually has Vietnamese coriander (mint)! Nothing really beats the real thing I guess. I’m not quite sure if I’m up for another lunch here any time soon. Maybe my benchmarks are too high considering the limited produce we have here. I can’t wait for our trip to Ho Chi Minh City! Ba Noi is in Perea Street in Makati