Have more options to grill in this Vietnamese barbecue place
VBQ is a Vietnamese barbecue place in Poblacion that lets you grill seafood aside from meat
Let’s admit it, the rise of samgyeopsal is something that we’ve already expected. Since the domination of Korea’s pop culture, a lot of their culture has also made its way here. Now samgyeopsal (colloquially known as samgyupsal), a popular Korean dish that consists of a variety of marinated and unmarinated meat which is grilled and served along with other side dishes or banchan, is something that we can find almost anywhere. But what if you can also grill seafood in a samgyeopsal-like restaurant?
Vietnamese restaurants are not something I often come by with, so I didn’t know what to expect but I kept picturing a place similar to a typical samgyeopsal restaurant. It was like what I assumed, but it was open, spacious, and ventilated. Its walls are made out of chemically-rusted GI sheets filled with distressed propaganda posters. To make the walls look aged, its architect divulged that they just used muriatic acid to make it look a little rusty.
The brightly lit restaurant looked like an industrial version of a modern samgyeopsal, with exhausts hovering above each table. At this point, I noticed how silent it was: Compared to a normal samguypsal at noon, this place was quiet, and the only sounds I could hear were the fizzles of each grill, which you wouldn’t exactly be able to say about a samgyupsal joint. Although there are no built-in grills on the table, the staff sets up a portable grill on top when customers avail of the Vietnamese barbecue set.
There’s blue marlin, chicken thigh, scallops, pork belly, and beef oyster blade, which according to head chef Kevin Sanchez is a part of the cow that isn’t commonly known. Beef oyster blade is a muscle that sits just below the cow’s shoulder blade which tenderizes to a soft texture when roasted. The meat and seafood that you can grill come with three kinds of sauces: nuoc cham (light fish sauce), a paste of salt, pepper, and lime; and my favorite, muoi xanh, which has green chilies, cilantro, lime, and condensed milk.
Sanchez shared that one thing that makes their lineup truly Vietnamese are their distinct sauce combinations. I was most curious when he told me about muoi xanh. At first glance, the green sauce looks like a cilantro sauce. However, unlike the Mexican sauce, it’s spicy only at first, followed quickly by a sweet aftertaste. It’s especially good to pair it with the beef oyster blade because the soft texture of the meat complements the mildly spicy taste of the sauce.
The restaurant has a variety of regional dishes. Bún thịt nướng, a dish that originated from Hanoi, is made of cold rice noodles topped with grilled pork, fried spring rolls, homemade pork sausage, and pickled vegetables then dressed with nuoc cham.
Papaya salad, as you can tell based on its name, uses grated unripe papaya with green mango and covers it with housemade beef liver jerky strips, peanuts, shallots, cilantro, and a side of rice puffs with black sesame seeds. The sweet and sour sauce renders the papaya a soft texture, which contrasts with the crispiness of rice puffs.
VBQ also has a wide selection of juices, fruit shakes, milk tea, and coffee. The coffee, imported from Vietnam, is known for its especially strong taste that can keep you up at night. (Hot tip: Drink this if you’re planning an all-nighter.) Served as either hot or iced, the coffee’s creamy taste is achieved by roasting it in butter, said Sanchez.
Some of their fruit teas include the Vietnamese lemonade, the Guyabano lychee with popping pearls, and their house-blended tea which has a purple and orange ombre.
Of course, it would not be complete without the famous black sugar milk tea with black sugar glaze on the side. Like any other milk tea, it’s creamy, but it’s less sweet and more tannic.
Apart from the grill and drinks, they also serve two kinds of hotpot: chicken pho pot, which has chicken breast, chicken feet, housemade chicken ham with okra, tofu, and herbs; and beef pho pot which has the same ingredients but instead of chicken has beef belly slices. Using the barbecue grill, customers may also cook the pho depending on how they like it.
Because there aren’t a lot of well-known Vietnamese restaurants here in the metro, the cuisine isn’t that recognized. So for first-timers to Vietnamese barbecue like me and those who are tired of having Korean barbecue, you can head over to this place in Poblacion.
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Try dipping their seafood and meat with muoi xanh, made of green chillies, cilantro, lime, and condensed milk, for a spicy and sweet experience. Also don't miss out on their Vietnamese coffee and milk tea.
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