I have a confession to make: I only recently learned to like Vietnamese food. Prior to my enlightenment, I found pho to be a thoroughly boring dish. "What was so interesting about a bowl of noodle soup?" I would ask whenever my family would drag me out to eat at Pho Hoa, which is probably one of the only places that comes to mind whenever people think of Vietnamese food in the metro.
I have since changed my heathen ways and often find myself craving a bowl of steaming hot pho, especially on cold days. Some time last week, my craving for Vietnamese food hit a peak.
"Why don't we eat at Xoi?" my officemate Tedrick had been asking me for the longest time. Owned by Natasha Morse and Chef Danny Vu (who used to man the kitchens at the legendary San Francisco restaurant Thanh Long!), Xoi's aim is to educate the Filipino palate about the different kinds of Vietnamese cuisine not normally available in other chain restaurants. I took him up on his offer and off we went to Megamall for some good old Vietnamese food.
Xoi's tagline is "More than just pho." But what Vietnamese meal is complete without it? We had the Pho Bo (P195), which was okay, in as far as beef noodle soup goes. Then again, this IS a restaurant that specializes in other kinds of Vietnamese food, so I was sure that the other dishes would be outstanding. I would have liked it better if they served their pho with slices of lime or lemon, instead of calamansi.
Next up was the Goi Buoi voi Tom Nuong, or Pomelo Salad (P180). I loved the taste of the grilled shrimp accompanied by the sweetness of pomelo slices and slivers of Vietnamese basil added to the mix!
This is a dish you don't see in many Vietnamese restaurant menus. The Chao Tom (P185), or prawn balls on sugarcane is served with a bed of vermicelli noodles and lettuce. The prawn balls are meant to be removed from the sugarcane, wrapped with the lettuce and noodles, and eaten all in one go. The taste of the plump, juicy prawn balls pleasantly reminded me of the taste of the Shrimp Balls from Jade Garden, a very sorely missed Chinese resto from the time when Greenbelt actually had lots of open space.
Perhaps the highlight of our meal was the Saigon Banh Xeo (P300). Since Vietnam was occupied by the French, their cuisine inevitably adopted French cooking techniques. This is a crunchy crepe with enoki mushrooms, chicken, onions, shrimp and sprouts inside, also meant to be wrapped in lettuce leaves. No other Vietnamese restaurant serves this, to my knowledge, and I don't think they should even try! It's so good, it's almost cheeky. The great thing about this dish is that it leaves you full, but not in the way eating a steak would leave you full. The not so great thing about this dish is that it will leave you craving it for weeks after.
At this point in the game, I was so full that I couldn't even be bothered to try this dish. Xoi also makes value meals, and this Soy Chicken plate (P149) is a steal when you're on a budget. Thankfully, Tedrick was a trooper and gamely finished off the entire plate.
If you're feeling adventurous, go to Xoi for a culinary lesson on Vietnam's different foods. True to their word, Xoi is without a doubt, more than just pho. Next time, I'll save my appetite for Chef Danny's Garlicky Crab!
Xoi is located at the 5th floor, Building A of SM Megamall, across the Chapel.