Friday, November 4, 2011

Rene's Saigon: Vietnamese Kitchen Brought Right in the Heart of Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa had been a temporary home for Vietnamese refugees when they landed the Philippines in post-1975. A community called "Viet-ville" (French word for "Viettown" was created. They brought their culture with them and one is Vietnamese cuisine, which they successfully introduced to the local community by putting up Vietnamese restaurants.

Filipinos embraced the flavors of Vietnam. Proof are several Chaolong houses (inspired by Vietnamese Pho) you would see scattered in any part of the city. Some are already owned by Filipinos who used to work for the Vietnamese Refugees. One restaurant that is still owned by a true blooded Vietnamese is Rene's Saigon, owned and managed by Rene Sabio who has a Filipino father a Vietnamese mother. His wife Huynh Thi Van assists him with their family business.

I'm surprised Rene's Saigon seemed not to be a very familiar name  (as compared to Bona's) with tricycle drivers. I asked two of them to kindly bring me to the restaurant but they seemed not to know it. Gladly, the third I asked has an idea although unsure about the location. It helped when I told him, it must be somewhere near the airport and is just along Rizal Ave. (It pays to do a research before heading somewhere) Nevertheless, we arrived at the right restaurant. When you're coming from the airport, Rene's Saigon is about a 5 minute drive towards your left, the opposite direction when you're headed to the city center. They open 8:30 in the morning and closes 8:30 at night.

We went there for brunch and a smiling lady handed us their menu once we have settled in one of their tables. They have wide variety of options. We ordered mostly their different variety of noodles (pho') perfect for the climate that day. A typhoon was currently passing Puerto Princesa that time. My sister and I loved their food. Noodles tasted fresh and chewy. The broth is perfect, there's a slight hint of sweetness and it's not overly sweet as the others I've tried, it was flavorful. Average you would spend here is about 100-150 per meal. This is one place I'd like to go back to when I visit PP again.

While eating, I noticed there's a featured article included on their menu. It was written by Marilen Kahn, I suppose one the customers who visited and tried their food. It was written there that this business started as a turo-turo (a small informal looking restaurant) with a 15 person seating capacity, located at the original Vietnamese Camp where Rene baked his French bread and cooked the dishes his mother and wife taught him. Now, the current restaurant is built on a 800 sq meter land, with a 50 person seating capacity where he continually bakes an average of 3,000 or more pieces of French bread daily and manage a kitchen that continually produces Vietnamese flavors for locals and tourists who came to love what Rene's Saigon offer. :)

Rene's Saigon can be found along Rizal Ave, passing by the Puerto Princesa Airport when coming from the City Center. It is located in Brgy. Bancao-Bancao. Their contact number is 433-5255.

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