food + drinks by Sam Potenciano

The Low-Key Most Authentic Bowl of Pho in Manila

After years of serving traditional bánh mi, this Vietnamese hole in the wall is ready pho more.

If for whatever reason you have somehow made it out as far as Mayapis street deep within Makati, then chances are that it was for a bite of Bon Banhmi’s traditional Vietnamese sandwiches. This busy, bright yellow hole in the wall has been serving up paté slathered bread with barbecue meats and pickled vegetables to its loyal customers for the past few years, but has recently opened up a brand new extension—right on the site where its main kitchen used to stand.bon-6

Directly beside the original shop, Bon Pho & Roll made its quiet debut just a few weeks ago. Mr. Thao, the Vietnamese owner of the shop, relates that the decision to finally open up a second restaurant came from the constant appeals of his customers. “After 3 years of Bon Banhmi, our customers would keep asking us about pho,” he explains, “Because they would be bored of the options from other Vietnamese restaurants. Many Filipinos would travel to Vietnam, try the food, then look for it when they came back locally, but they couldn’t find those same flavors.”

bonThe local Vietnamese chains, it seemed, lacked the authenticity of flavors that these tourists had so fallen in love with to begin with. “That is why Bon Pho & Roll’s slogan is ‘Home away from home with pho’,” Mr. Thao continues, placing emphasis on his wife’s traditional pho-making techniques. His wife’s family, which has had more than 20 years of experience in the food industry back home in Vietnam, directly influenced the dishes that appear on the menu today. Cooking at home, Mr. Thao explains, is the norm for most families back home, and the recipes that they selected for Bon Pho & Roll have been passed down from generation to generation.

From the handmade noodles in their Pho Bon Dac Biet (Bon House Special Pho) to the in-house marinated pork in my personal fave, the Bun Thit Nuong (Noodles with Pork BBQ), the herbs and spices present within each dish come together to create flavors that are familiar yet surprising with every bite.

bon“We make everything,” Mr. Thao reiterates, “From the noodles, to the bread to the meat. It’s all homemade fresh daily.” This emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients is another reason why Mr. Thao’s food businesses have continued to attract as many loyal customers as they have in such a short span of time. While his first business, Bon Banhmi, now includes branches all over the metro from Salcedo Street in Makati to Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa, he is in no rush to franchise Bon Pho & Roll just yet, preferring to keep its in-house specialties and techniques closer to home for just a while longer.

Over sips of slow-dripped Café Sua (Vietnamese Coffee with Condensed Milk) and already staring longingly at the last few bites of Cha Gio (Fried Spring Rolls) that I’d set aside for last, I find myself scheduling another out of the way trip to Mayapis in the near future.

Photography by Ralph Mendoza

Sam Potenciano
Sam Potenciano
Sam is the digital editor of L’Officiel Manila. Formerly the founding editor of The Neighborhood and the editor-in-chief of Candy magazine, she is also a columnist for The Philippine Star's Young Star section. Follow her on Instagram at @sampotenciano.
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