Monday, August 13, 2018

Fresh From Saigon: A Flavorful Tour of Duty at Propaganda Bistro

Authentic yet modern, progressive with an innovative and playful twist borne out of the colonial experience and revolution, Propaganda Bistro brings both art and food in a seamless blend for yet another colorful layer of the uniquely Vietnamese culinary experience...

From the same group behind Ramen Nagi, Toritake and Fat Fook Taiwanese Kitchen, Propaganda Bistro adds to the ever-growing portfolio of distinctly Asian flavors with its authentic yet modern take on Vietnamese cuisine. It's Vietnamese cuisine with a fresh, vibrant, youthful and even revolutionary spin that's just not mere propaganda. Read on and take a peek at Greenbelt 5's newest dining destination...

The new Manila location is only the second branch following the Saigon flagship, with the decor consistent with the brand's concept. Colorful murals inspired by the revolutionary propaganda during the war becomes an integral part of the brand, with the call to arms replaced by dietary advice like "Everyday we choose a new dish." Very cool.  

There's just more to Vietnamese cuisine than just Pho and Banh Mi, and you can discover and savor the richness and diversity of authentic Vietnamese flavors including innovative dishes that can only be found at Propaganda Bistro. It's this renewed approach to traditional flavors that make Propaganda Bistro different, setting both the mood and dining experience with its recreation of propaganda art as part of its character and identity.

Vietnamese cuisine is known for its vibrant notes where the freshness of ingredients deliver the all the flavors. It's a cuisine enriched by the French colonial experience that remains one of the world's unique culinary experiences. This tradition is maintained at Propaganda Bistro, but with a few modern twists for a refreshingly new experience.

During the exclusive media preview, guests eagerly anticipated Propaganda Bistro's signature dishes. After a short and brief program, the kitchen fired up for the event's special preview. And what a feast. From starters to salads to the iconic Banh Mi and Pho, Propaganda Bistro laid it all out that day.

Start with a refreshing Homemade Mint Lime-Aid to refresh and soothe the palate before the feast...

You can also opt for Propaganda Bistro's equally refreshing Iced Lemongrass Green Tea (P 90) or dive right in with classic Vietnamese flavors with the bold and sweet Ca phe sua da (P 165), the traditional iced filter coffee with condensed milk. You can also purchase their coffee beans by the bag.

Other refreshing options include the Mint Cacao Kiss Smoothie (P 160) with banana, cocoa, fresh mint, homemade cashew milk and honey, a comforting and indulgent blend and the Blended Fresh Mango, Papaya, & Pineapple Shake. Propaganda Bistro takes pride in their freshly pressed fruit juices and fruit shakes using only the freshest ingredients.

Saigon Heat, Flying Shiso, American Romeo, First Call, Propaganda Daiquiri, and Calamansi Martini, that's just some of the signature cocktails for a refreshing tipple before or after your meal at Propaganda Bistro's well-stocked bar. That day, we enjoyed white and rose wines that also paired well with their dishes.

Inside the kitchen, the team prepared the first course of starters for the guests...

Propaganda Bistro's signature Fresh Prawn Spring Rolls (P 330) filled with finely julienned fresh vegetables, rice noodles, and coriander fish sauce is instantly recognizable and a popular appetizer in Vietnamese cuisine. It's a deceptively simple dish highlighted by the freshest ingredients for its familiar fresh and clean notes. The subtle sweetness of the crisp vegetables and the briny notes of the succulent prawns line the palate with its light and delicate flavors, announced by an audible snap with every bite. 

And once you start, the plate of starters just magically vanish before your eyes. And right off the bat, Propaganda Bistro impresses with the very first dish served during the media preview. Propaganda Bistro's Spring Rolls are served with ten pieces per order in different variants including Fresh Chicken Rolls with Avocado, Brown Rice & Spicy Peanut Dip (P 300), Fresh Rolls with Omelette, Avocado, Brown Rice & Soya Sauce (P 250), Fresh Rolls with Beef in Betel Leaf, Rice Noodles & Spicy Ginger Fish Sauce (P 330), and Fresh Rolls with Lemongrass, Rice Noodles, Greens and Soya Sauce (P 250). Propaganda Bistro also offers crisp Fried Spring Rolls (P 250 for 5 pieces) with pork, prawns, glass noodles & fish sauce.

But it's the fresh salads where Propaganda Bistro shows its revolutionary and somewhat quirky and twisted flair in their interpretation of traditional Vietnamese flavors. The Propaganda Edamame Salad (P 350) with organic black rice, homemade citrus-soy tofu and dried baby tomatoes is one expression of pure freshness executed with a modern and delicately balanced approach to both flavor and texture. Topped with their own homemade tofu flavored with the subtle hints of citrus and soy, the dish is a celebration of rich flavors with all the different ingredients adding layers of bold notes and textures. To be honest, it's the kind of dish I didn't quite expect in a Vietnamese restaurant. But Propaganda Bistro just blows your palate and your preconceived notions of traditional Vietnamese flavors. This is one salad dish that's a must try at Propaganda Bistro. Other refreshing salads include the savory BBQ Beef Salad (P 490), BBQ Chicken, Shallots and Green Mango Salad (P 350), Brown Rice Salad (P 250), Stir-Fried Morning Glory with Garlic (P 200) and Homemade Pan-Fried Egg Tofu (P 250).

Propaganda Bistro continues to surprise with its flavorful rice bowls. The Crunchy Tri-Colored Rice Bowl (P 350) with BBQ Chicken, Vegetables and Fried Egg served with soya sauce is another of Propaganda Bistro's innovative take on authentic flavors. Once you mix the egg with the rice and other ingredients with a light drizzle of soya sauce, one spoonful is all it takes to understand the new kind of culinary revolution set forward by Propaganda Bistro. The ingredients and flavor profile may be traditional, but there is a modern and bold new interpretation of classic flavors re-engineered and reinvented for a new flavor experience. It's a satisfying meal in itself. Definitely not traditional, but it's unique to Propaganda Bistro. And I like what they're doing in reinterpreting their local cuisine with flavorful new expressions. Other variations of the crunchy rice bowl include Prawns & Vegetables (P 390), Citrus Tofu & Grilled Pineapple (P 300) and BBQ Pork & Vegetables (P 350). The inventive crunchy rice bowls are just one of those playfully inventive dishes that  you can only find at Propaganda Bistro with its distinctive and innovative stamp.

All salads are served with crisp Grilled Sesame Rice Crackers to complete the dish with both flavor and texture.

Another must-try at Propaganda Bistro is their Propaganda Bun (P 250), with homemade lightly fried egg tofu and special ginger, chili and crunchy peanut topping. With an assortment of fresh vegetables including noodles, cucumber, carrots, fresh garden greens and thin delicately shaved strings of crisp green beans, the dish is another example of Propaganda Bistro's uncompromising approach to using only the freshest ingredients. And why not, freshness is flavor. The sweet and mildly tart dressing completes the flavors, binding each ingredient for another exceptional salad. Other tasty Rice Noodle Salads include the Bun with Lemongrass Beef in Betel Leaf (P 390), Bun with BBQ Chicken, Avocado and Special Ginger (P 350), Bun with BBQ Pork, Spring Rolls and Vegetables (P 450) and Bun with Garlic and Basil Sauteed Prawns and Vegetables (P 490).

For the mains, Propaganda Bistro served their signature Pho, the Chicken Pho (P 450) with tender chicken and Vietnamese herbs. The light yet flavorful broth complements the delicate notes of the tender chicken without overpowering the palate. There is a subtle lightness to the dish that makes it the perfect option for a light yet satisfying meal any time of day, capped by a whisper of minty notes from the fresh herbs. Also available is the Beef Pho (P 450) if you're craving for a beefy punch.

The historical city of Hue in Southern Vietnam is widely remembered for the tumultuous and violent days of the infamous Tet Offensive during the war, but Propaganda Bistro shows another facet of Hue drawing inspiration from its local rice noodle dishes. The Rice Noodle Soup (P 450) with beef, fresh greens, and bean sprouts offers bolder flavors complemented by the crisp bean sprouts and round chewy rice noodles. The darker broth delivers more intense beefy notes for comforting flavors. 

Complete your feast of authentic Vietnamese flavors with Propaganda Bistro's signature Banh Mi. The Pate Banh Mi (P 300) with tender and juicy braised pork and floss, cilantro, pickled vegetables and creamy chili mayo is just what you'd expect from the classic French-inspired Vietnamese staple and favorite. From the lightly crisp baguette to the savory filling of pork, each crunchy bite bursts with real flavors. The richness of the pork is perfectly tempered by the pickled vegetables and minty cilantro for balanced notes, and perfectly finished by a subtle whisper of heat from the chili mayo. The pate adds depth to complete the flavors. Just perfect.  Other variations include the BBQ Chicken Banh Mi (P 350), Meatball Banh Mi (P 350), Omelette Banh Mi (P 300), and BBQ Pork Banh Mi (P 350).

Cap your feast of authentic with just a hint of radical Vietnamese flavors with their indulgent desserts like the Homemade Frozen Banana & Coconut Bar (P 150) with crushed peanut topping and the Homemade Soursop & Palm Sugar Ice Cream (P 170). Other must-try desserts include their Banana Fritters and Sticky Coconut Rice.

The bright colors of the war time propaganda-inspired murals and their equally colorful napkins are the perfect setting for its equally vibrant culinary style. Traditional yet modern, authentic yet innovative, Vietnamese cuisine's rich heritage and history is given a flavorful new chapter at Propaganda Bistro. And trust me, it's no mere propaganda at all...

Propaganda Bistro is located at the 2nd Level, Greenbelt 5, Legazpi Street, Ayala Center, Makati City or call 576-1908 for inquiries.

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