Propaganda Bistro: Vietnamese Food That’s More Than Pho and Banh Mi

 There’s something cozy about Vietnamese cuisine. Perhaps it is the freshness, perhaps it comes from the flavors, or perhaps it is the oxymoron of the ingredients’ simplistic complexitiy. Simply put, Vietnamese cuisine is yummy, but I’m not quite sure why.

Propaganda Vietnamese Bistro, located in the swankier part of Makati on the second floor of Greenbelt 5, is a bistro, bar, and all-around Saigon hotspot that has somehow found itself in this city.

Pregame anyone?

Crazy and colorful with its rich, red caricatures and tiny Vietnamese flags, Propaganda Bistro toes the line between fusion and experimental. It’s a thin line, but one that this restaurant manages to balance upon on quite well.

Not quite fusion, the menu provides a modern twist to the traditional; after all, the Vietnamese palate is more than your usual pho and banh mi.

Photo courtesy of Propaganda Bistro. Fresh spring rolls for P250

Our 9-course meal started out with the classic fresh spring rolls. I’ve had fresh spring rolls before, but Propaganda’s secret ingredient made all the difference: avocado. Something as simple as a new ingredient has made a world of difference to this otherwise traditional fare. This is a classic example of Propaganda’s rebellious take on Vietnamese cuisine.

Edamame salad for P350

The second thing on our menu was the edamame salad. Home-made citrus-soy tofu on a bed of organic black rice and served with black sesame crackers, the edamame salad was like nothing I’ve ever eaten before. All the ingredients complemented each other so well: the crunch of the sesame cracker to the chewiness of the dried tomato, the tanginess of the citrus-soy tofu to the nuttiness of the black rice. I’m salivating just thinking about it – definitely something to go back for!

Pâté bánh mì for P300

The Pâté bánh mì proceeded the edamame salad. Spicy from an extra dollop of chili mayo, the Pâté bánh mì in Propaganda is what the clubhouse sandwich is to other restaurants. Iconic and delicious, it is anything but boring.

Bún for P250

APropaganda’s “bún” came as the fourth course. Lightly fried egg tofu on a bed of vegetables and vermicelli and sprinkled with chopped peanuts, this noodle dish is (in one word) refreshing. The perfect meal to energize you through your busy day, the “bún” is a balanced meal placed in a ceramic bowl: carbs, proteins and veggies in the form of vermicelli noodles, tofu, and delightful greens.

Chicken pho for P450

After the “bún” came the chicken pho. Undoubtedly what I was looking forward to the most, the chicken pho did not disappoint. However, I must add that while the chicken pho was delicious, Propaganda also taught me that this was not the restaurant’s pièce de resistance. As Managing Director, Ms. Avigail Chua says Vietnam is more than its pho and banh mi. They are its staples and I understand why, but there is so much more to it than that.

Huê rice noodle soup for P450

The Huê rice noodle soup is mildly spicy and invigorating in a way that meat must have been to the cavemen. This dish is not your ordinary beef noodle soup. To me, it has the kind of allure that far-flung places have: kind of mysterious (as all things unfamiliar are), but intriguing to the senses.

Tri-colored rice bowl with BBQ chicken, vegetables, and egg for P350

By the last dish, my stomach was full and my heart happy. However, when we were served the crunch tri-colored rice bowl, I knew that my day would not be complete without tasting this pretty, little dish. I will tell you now that it lives up to its name: it is indeed crunchy.

Although not as appealing to me as the pho or the edamame salad, the crunchy tri-colored rice bowl is a must-try. Even after traveling through Vietnam for to weeks, I wasn’t able to eat this until now. Kind of a waste, but at least with Propaganda, you are once again given the chance to revisit (or visit) Saigon just a few kilometers from anywhere in the NCR.

Home-made frozen banana and coconut bar with crushed peanut topping (left) for P150; home-made soursop & palm sugar ice cream for P170 (right)

Dessert was the home-made frozen banana and coconut bar and the soursop (guyabano) and palm sugar ice cream. I believe that these two desserts are more of an acquired taste. I wasn’t exactly sure how to react to all the fruits, and the flavors were definitely more exotic than I’d anticipated; but hey, where else are you going to get food like this? Nowhere, just here.

At the end of the day, Propaganda is where people go to experience a more in-depth Vietnam. The food is delicious, yes, but it’s also complex. You may not enjoy the flavors right away, but that’s alright. Propaganda isn’t here to conform and become your typical banh mi stall. They are here as a creative rebellion in the culinary scene, ready to help you see Vietnamese cuisine from a broader perspective. And quite frankly, they’ll be happy to keep it that way.

Propaganda Vietnamese Bistro

Level 2, Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati

http://www.propagandabistros.com

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