MANILA -- As the newest restaurant at the Sky Park of SM Aura Premier, Nha Em (meaning ‘my home’ in Vietnamese) serves up traditional Vietnamese favorites from family recipes and dish inspirations from its owners’ travels around Vietnam.
Found at a corner of Sky Park, Nha Em's glass-walled space is surrounded by relaxing greenery.
Interiors have a modern Asian look with wooden tables and chairs with yellow pillows that make for an inviting space, while Asian/Vietnamese statuettes, dolls, and jars adorn the walls, give it personality. Nha Em’s vibe is inviting and casual, homey and comfortable — suiting the concept to a T.
Most of Nah Em’s dishes come in large servings, to be shared with family and friends. Here are some of Nha Em’s versions of popular Vietnamese dishes, as well as lesser known fare:
1. Cha Gio and Goi Cuon
Spring rolls are a Vietnamese staple, and usually prepared two ways – Goi Cuon (fresh) and Cha Gio (fried).
Nha Em’s version of Goi Cuon had rolls that were fresh and beautifully wrapped. The orange of the shrimp was showing through the translucent rice paper, vegetables were crunchy, and the peanut sauce provided salt and body to the bite. A light and healthy appetizer option.
But there’s just something about fried spring rolls that makes them irresistible. One of Nha Em’s specialties, the Cha Gio features a golden light crispy wrapper hiding pork, mushrooms and rice noodles. While we demolished a plate, simply dipping it into the sweet-sour-salty nuoc cham sauce, Nha Em provides crisp lettuce leaves to wrap these rolls in before dipping, adding another layer of herby flavor and crunch. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
2. Pho Bo
Nha Em’s Pho Bo or Vietnamese beef noodle soup is cooked the traditional way – 10 hours of continuous simmering using beef bones and different spices. Without any condiments, the broth had a slight sweet tinge, something that Filipinos may enjoy, especially flavored to their liking with the requisite herbs, hoisin, and hot sauce. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
3. Fried Chicken Wings in Fish Sauce
Versions of this dish are popular around the world, winning fans with the combination of crispy chicken and the rich pungent taste of Vietnamese fish sauce and sugar. Nha Em serves these sweet, salty and sticky wings as an appetizer, but an order with rice would easily make great meal. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
4. Ban Xeo/Crispy Crepe
Eating Nha Em’s Ban Xeo was a first for me, and it was quite an enjoyable introduction to one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes now.
Ban Xeo means sizzling cake, named for the sound the rice batter makes as it hits the pan. An order comes in a large plate with half of the platter filled with greens (lettuce, mint), there’s nuoc cham in a bowl, and then spilling over to the sides is the half-moon shaped Ban Xeo crepe. Crispy with browned edges and filled with shrimp, meat and vegetables, this Banh Xeo has everything ---crispy, sweet, sour, salty, and even some bitterness (from the herbs/lettuce leaves). You take a lettuce leaf, place a piece of the Ban Xeo, add your herbs, roll your lettuce, and dip into nuoc cham. Delicious. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
5. Muc Xao Xa Ot (Lemon Grass Squid with Chili)
Very fragrant with curry and lemon grass, tender squid swimming in a yellow tinged sauce with garlic and lemon grass. This is a dish that’s begging for a cup of rice, thanks to that rich sauce. This dish wasn’t too spicy, unless you make it a point to get some of the sliced red chilies doting the plate. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
6. Banh Flan
Vietnamese flan is light and smooth and not too sweet. The Banh Flan had a very fine texture to it—creamy and delicious.
Also try the Sua Chua (homemade yogurt), sweet (thanks to either condensed milk or honey, we’re not too sure) and sour (akin to Greek yogurt), it’s a refreshing (and healthy) ending to any meal. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
7. Ca Phe Sua Da/Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Strong coffee. Iced or hot, this drip coffee with condensed meal can invigorate the senses. Too hot in Sky Park? Order a cup or two of Ca Phe Sua Da and relax as you look outside the greenery surrounding the restaurant. Photo by from the restaurant's Facebook page