It was such a humid afternoon but my good friend Aileen and I braved the heavy traffic going to Manila on a Thursday. Aileen had been searching for hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serves authentic Vietnamese cuisine. She had been looking for one ever since her foodie twin sister Abby went to Vietnam. Of course, there are quite a few popular restaurants that feature Vietnamese cuisine on their menu but we find them pretty expensive for a typical Filipino budget. So off we went to this little Vietnamese kitchen in Malate (just beside Benilde Hotel, a few blocks from St. Scholastica's College in Leon Guinto, Manila) called Bundongtam.
Bundongtam had very simple interiors--pastel blue walls decorated with three Vietnamese calligraphy Tin, Dong and Tam (which means Unity) as well as a painting of the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica in Vietnam. There were also bright and colorful red paper lanterns adorning the ceiling by the stairs. I believe that people would flock this quaint little Vietnamese restaurant simply because they'd want to eat authentic Viet food and not so much for the ambiance.
Being a Pho aficionado, I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to finding a good Pho. They're priced right, Php 129 for a small bowl and they are not skimp on the meat or the sides...especially since I love adding the chili peppers, sprouts & mint to my soup. Bundongtam's pho broth (both chicken and beef) has that truly authentic flavor, with hints of clove and star anise really shining through! Pho is my test of all Vietnamese eateries, and they have it going on! Steaming bowls inviting you to slurp sip after sip until your stomach aches! The soup is hot when it's served and there is enough flavor where I don't have to add fish sauce for extra flavor. It is very good and the portion is not skimpy on ingredients. Overall...must try if you love Pho.
I was about to utter the words "yummy" but I remember reading somewhere that in Vietnam. You could say, 'yum', but never 'yummy' because in Vietnamese it means "horny". So instead of saying such forbidden word, I'd have to say that Bundongtam's pho is Rất ngon (which in Vietnamese means very delicious!). Eating healthy Vietnamese food is like taking a tour on a school's herb garden. On each dish, you'd smell sawtooth coriander, morning glory, Asian basil etc. Some smell fishy, some smell minty and some smell just plain flavorful.
Bundongtam has goi cuon or better known as spring rolls which are made to perfection. The spring roll with shredded pork and veggies were clean and crisp tasting and it is served with some fish sauce in the side for dipping. The Nuoc Cham dipping sauce make them even superb! The crepe to begin which was crunchy and not too oily. Wrapped in some lettuce with a touch of sauce was the way to go. They weren't too greasy as some Vietnamese crepes can be. Plus they are reasonably priced at Php50 per order of three pieces.
Their Bun Thit Nu'ong was also quite delicious and sweet. Made from vermicelli noodles with spring roll, and char-grilled marinated pork. Their peanut sauce was divine. The only real downside was their pork. They were a bit hard for chewing. It had some resistance and was difficult to bite. We were later informed that the one in-charge during our visit was a Filipino cook and not the Vietnamese guy. So that explains why the quality wasn't properly maintained. But other than that, dining at Bundongtam was such a pleasant experience!
Our server, whom I called Manang, was very friendly, she made our experience even better. Overall, if you're looking for no frills authentic Vietnamese food for a price that's unbeatable, stop by Bundongtam, I promise you won't be disappointed!
The restaurant has a nice ambiance and the service is good. The food service is quick and food hot as it should be. The menu is filled with variety and does have a few items that are traditional to the Vietnamese culture. The menu includes the usual specials that restaurants have.
Since Bundongtam had just started their operation around three months ago, the items in the menu include only a few of Vietnam's popular foods. There are the "Chopstick Adventures" which has different beef based pho broths as well as chicken based broths for those who enjoy a lighter soup. There are too many to name but if you want variety it's there for your choosing. For "Plate Pioneers", there is also vermicelli, and rice dishes for a more hearty meal. The meats are the usual beef, pork, or chicken. I have yet to try the rest of their menu but I plan to. I wish that in the future they'll have a selection of sandwiches (Banh mi) with pork, beef, or chicken sandwiches served with pickled veggies to add to the wonderful Bundongtam menu.
Aileen and I both love Bundongtam's Authentic Vietnamese Coffee. Very subtle flavor and not too sweet but very aromatic. As far as my experience goes, it's pretty good. As far as my pho goes, it's very hearty and served hot! If you're not used to eating very warm soups let it cool a bit before chowing down. The broth was aromatic and has a nice tint for a beef broth. The broth is nice but a bit on the sweet side. So be weary of adding extra hoisin sauce for flavoring unless you like it sweet.
Only thing I find a little bad was the parking. I know it's not the restaurant's fault but watch out for those tight spaces and bad drivers out there. Over all, the restaurant has potential to be frequented. The price is reasonable and not over priced. Oh, and how I wish there was traditional Vietnamese music played in the back ground so it could've added to my nostalgia. Happy Eats everyone!
Visit this hole-in-the-wall little Vietnamese kitchen called Bundongtam at 1059 Estrada Street, corner Arellano Avenue, Malate, Manila.
Store Hours: 10-AM-8PM
P.S. According to the owners, they will soon be opening near Guadalupe Mall. So I think Makati residents should watch out for that! It's another good news indeed for foodies!
Disclaimer: I am not compensated for this post. Opinions expressed are 100% my own.