Bawai, in Tagaytay

Lake Taal, Tagaytay's biggest attraction

Lake Taal

As much as it is popular as a sightseeing getaway, Tagaytay has also evolved into a food destination. The influx of visitors into this once quaint mountain town has also brought a vibrant culinary scene. Now there are people who go there not for the sights, but for the food – and in Tagaytay you can find restaurants of all kinds – from the familiar to the exotic, large chains and small family owned ones, formal and run-off-the-mill.

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One of the latest rather “exotic” ones we tried is Bawai – a small, cozy, family-owned establishment, serving Vietnamese cuisine. Located way off the highway and hidden in a hard-to-find corner of a village, Bawai is best for those who’d like to have quiet, peaceful dining. It’s just across another hard-find restaurant, Chateau Hestia, but it’s so discreet that we even ran past it at first.

While the place is easy to run past the first time around, once you’ve been there and tried their food, there will be no forgetting where it is. They cook what is probably the best Vietnamese food anywhere in the Philippines. They take orders well in advance (ours was taken as soon as we made the reservation), which probably means there’s no short-cutting in preparations, and everything is done as it should.

All of the food that we ordered were hits, no miss. The highlights of course were the fresh spring roll and Pho Bo, two of the most popular Vietnamese dishes, and those were two of the best I’ve had so far. Another must have is the grilled pork ribs, which had that infused flavor of herbs and the delightful aroma that goes with it. The watercress salad and the dry noodles were “experimental” orders – I have never tried either of these anywhere else before – and both were great discoveries that I wouldn’t hesitate to order again. The grilled dory though was a bit spicier than I would have preferred, but it wasn’t bad either.

Overall, I think Bawai ranks up there among the best places to eat in Tagaytay, and that’s saying a lot, since Tagaytay definitely does not have a shortage of good restaurants. And would you be surprised that everything we ordered cost less than 2,000php? I certainly was, when I saw the bill. The place has that feel and taste of exclusivity, but it certainly isn’t priced like it. Reservations are a necessity here though, as the place does get packed (+63 920 9722924).

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Goi Cuon  (Fresh Spring Roll)

Goi Cuon (Fresh Spring Roll)

Bun Bo Xao (Dry Noodles with Sauteed Beef and Vegetables)

Bun Bo Xao (Dry Noodles with Sauteed Beef and Vegetables)

Goi Rau Muong (Watercress and Seared Beef Salad)

Goi Rau Muong (Watercress and Seared Beef Salad)

Cam Suon Cha (Grilled Pork Rib wth Omelet and Rice)

Cam Suon Cha (Grilled Pork Rib wth Omelet and Rice)

Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup)

Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup)

Ca Nuong Xa Ot (Grilled Dory with Rice and Vegetables)

Ca Nuong Xa Ot (Grilled Dory with Rice and Vegetables)

Aloe Vera Juice - it's no Vietnamese (it's Korean), but we loved every last drop, we ended up looking in Korean stores for it after.

Aloe Vera Juice – it’s no Vietnamese (it’s Korean), but we loved every last drop, we ended up looking in Korean stores for it after.

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* All photos taken last June 2013, using an Olympus EPM-2 with M.Zuiko 14-42mm IIR.

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