Sometimes, when I feel under the weather or need to cheer up, a steaming bowl of pho is the way to go. Since the bridge is still under repair, I haven't really passed by that area. So imagine my surprise when I saw the signage for what appears to be a Vietnamese food place.
There used to be a Cebu lechon place there that I never got to try. But since I was in a rush to get a cab to get to Diliman to join the really long line of people waiting for possibly their last chance for a taste of Beach House barbecue before it closes down, I only got to check it out a couple of days later, when I had some errands to run.
The first thing that greeted me upon entering Nguyen Food House was the chatter from a table of Vietnamese aunties by the door. There must have been five or six of them, all talking excitedly with each other. The shop assistant gave me a menu and I asked what their specialty was, and she pointed to the bowl of pho. I asked for the steak and tendon kind.
She came back with a bowl of thinly sliced meat ("steak," I assume) and beef balls with a generous heap of spring onions and a tub of togue and calamansi. There's also some hoisin sauce and hot sauce--I don't think it's rooster sriracha. This has obviously worked with what is available in the area. So don't expect lemon wedges or big stemmed supermarket beat sprouts. You're looking for "locally sourced," here you go--togue kung togue.
But a slurp of the broth confirms that a bowl of pho is a bowl of pho. Yes, this is slightly different from what we have been used to from the mall-based Vietnamese food we have been used to. Aside from using local ingredients, this bowl is also about 20% cheaper. What it has going for it is that it is made by a Vietnamese mommy. I asked her where she's from and she said she lives in the Nagtahan area. Again, you can't go any more local than that. I also assume that the owner's friends live nearby for them to hang out in her store.
It's also a nice addition to the sort of eats one can have. If you want Indian food, it's only a few minutes away from Assad's in the UN Avenue/Otis area. And now we have pho. Really, what this town needs is a decent coffee shop. There was a cafe in that building area once, but it didn't last long and the space is now occupied by a spa. So maybe people want a massage more than they want coffee.
A bowl of noodles that cost Php199 (but can be comfortably shared by two people) is probably expensive by the town's standards. Perhaps they can have a sampler or "merienda bowl" at Php99--you know, just so the people in the area can try out the noodles and get used to it and make it an alternative to the mami that they know. I just want the place to stay open for a really long time.
Nguyen Food House is on the ground floor of Residencias de Manila, Jesus Street, Pandacan.