It was Monday and there was nothing to look forward to but a long work week ahead. Add that to the ever impending doom hanging over Manila, with daily forecasts of ‘cloudy with a chance of torrential rains’, its gloom city all the way.

So for this ‘Off the Eaten Track’ piece, we decided to go to a spot that serves sunshine on their plates and what better way to do so than with a light and healthy Vietnamese culinary outing.

Located just a stone’s throw away from the city’s business district is Jam & Viet Sandwich House, a spot serving quick and easy Vietnamese cuisine that fits the ‘feel good food’ bill. Found along Mascardo in Brgy. Sta. Cruz, a hidden side street along Chino Roces Avenue, the place attracts foodies much like candle light draws moths with its bold façade and well lit signage.

A residential property turned into a hole-in-the-wall diner, the place is cozy and clean with air conditioning keeping the small space comfy and cool. It also helps that the attendants are courteous which puts diners instantly at ease.

From their small yet sufficiently varying menu, we ordered Spring Rolls prepared two ways (fresh and fried), Fried Rice, Hu Tieu or Rice Noodle Soup, and a large Traditional Sandwich encased in Bahn Mi or Vietnam’s version of a French baguette.

The Fresh Spring rolls (Php25/piece) was a good way to start of the meal. Ingredients like shrimp, greens, and vermicelli noodles where neatly wrapped in rice paper and served with peanut sauce. Each bite, despite being a bit tough because of the sticky rice paper, was light and pleasant. The flavors were gentle paired with the tangy peanut sauce while aromatic hints from coriander leaves tucked within occasionally tickled the palate.

The Fried Spring rolls (Php25/piece), on the other hand, offered a slightly heavier bite with vermicelli noodles mixed with minced meat inside. Make no mistake, it’s still a delicate dish but the pork and the deep fried casing made for a more savory taste.

Both Spring roll dishes went perfectly well with the Vietnamese Fried Rice (Php88) which could easily stand as a meal on its own. Topped with bits of roast pork, and mixed with diced chorizo and veggies, the dish offers full flavors that scream of Asian spices through and through.

The Hu Tieu or Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup (Php148) was simply divine. Roast pork, meatballs, shrimp, Chinese celery, and flat rice noodles all topped with chives, swam in delicately spiced soup. A pinch of chopped red chili peppers and a squeeze of calamansi was all it took to season the broth to perfection.

Digging into the dish is like scooping up a patch of clouds which precipitates with different flavors and accented by varying textures in your mouth. The dish is also served BanhCanh which is essentially similar except for thick and round noodles used.

For the coup de grâce, Jam & Viet’s Traditional Sandwich with roast and steamed pork, fresh greens, and strings of pickled radish and carrots are encased in Bahn Mi did the trick. Lined with homemade liver pâté, the bread, which was crunchy on the outside while soft and fluffy inside, served as the perfect conduit to house all the ingredients that meld together well. They also have chicken, barbecue, tuna, and fried egg pâté sandwiches which comes in regular (Php98) and large (Php128) sizes.

Jam & Viet Sandwich House stays true to traditional Vietnamese cuisine. It has a short menu which is effective because they offer few dishes doing it all well. The dishes being prepared up front, the courteous staff, and the comfortable space all made the experience a happy one.

Jam & Viet Sandwich House is located along Mascardo Street, Barangay Sta. Cruz, Makati City.

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