On the way to visit Speedy’s mom, we planned to stop in Katipunan to find Ramen Oh! and have lunch there. But we got stuck in a bad traffic jam on Marcos Highway, we took a detour and found ourselves on the White Plains side of Katipunan Road. Speedy suggested lunch at Bawai’s Vietnamese Kitchen. He’s been saying for ages that I should take him there on a date.
As I understand it, Bawai’s in White Plains is a branch of Bawai’s in Silang, Cavite just outside Tagaytay City. We tried to eat at Bawai’s Tagaytay once but found that it was closed for the day. Pissed, we never attempted to go back. The White Plains branch opened late last year.
First, the setup.
There’s al fresco dining and there’s an air-conditioned dining room.
It was noon, it was a sweltering humid day, so, quite naturally, we headed straight to the air-conditioned dining room.
The table setting was immaculate with white napkin, spoon, fork, knife… Wait, what — no chopsticks? Aren’t chopsticks the standard in Vietnamese restaurants especially one serving “authentic Vietnamese food”? Okay, I’m just saying, really, just a small observation, but no problem — I never did learn to use chopsticks anyway.
We were handed the menu, Speedy left it to me to choose and I chose carefully because I’m allergic to shrimps (and all crustaceans) so I could only order items with no shrimps in them. For our starter course, I chose cha gio (crispy fried rolls filled with minced buttered chicken, pork, herbs and vegetables). For the main course, I ordered bun bo xao (pan-seared lemongrass beef tenderloin on dry noodles with fresh and picked vegetables topped with roasted nuts) which, according to the menu, was good for two to three persons.
While waiting for our food, we continued to peruse the menu and decided that we’d have coffee and dessert later.
The food arrived, and… why weren’t the spring rolls wrapped in rice paper? That’s what distinguishes Vietnamese spring rolls from most other spring rolls in Asia, after all. Fresh or fried, Vietnamese spring rolls are wrapped in rice paper. Again, just saying.
The cha gio was good though with lots of filling and just a wisp of wrapper. I could almost ignore the non-rice paper wrapper.
The bun bo xao was good too but what really made it memorable was the magnificent nuoc cham that accompanied it. Bawai’s makes a wonderful nuoc cham — subtly sweet, not too spicy and the distinctive flavor of fish sauce is there but not in overwhelming quantity.
Between the cha gio and the bun bo xao, we managed to order dessert and coffee with instructions to serve them after we were done with our savory courses.
So, we both ordered ca phe sua nong — Trung Nguyên hot drip coffee with condensed milk — which were served with the phin filter. If Speedy doesn’t look too thrilled in the photo, it was probably because he was dying to have his coffee and dessert but couldn’t start until I was done taking photos.
The basil ice cream was, for me, the crowning glory of our meal. So, so good. Rich and herby, and… It’s hard to describe and is better experience first hand. I’m going to replicate it at home.
Speedy liked his rosemary ice cream which came with bits of what tasted like toasted anise seeds. Yes, we ate half of each other’s ice cream so we could enjoy both. Personally, I liked the basil ice cream so much more.
The ca phe sua nong — rich, nutty and chocolatey all at the same time — was sensational. It was, hands down, the best coffee that Speedy and I have ever had. Ever.
The bill came to a little less than a thousand pesos (about USD22.00). Bawai’s is not inexpensive but, everything considered, the price wasn’t bad at all.
Bawai’s Vietnamese Kitchen is at 79 Katipunan Avenue, White Plains, Quezon City.