Monday, June 7, 2010

Saigon Restaurant

Ahhh…there you go. My faith is restored. It IS possible to get good Vietnamese in Indy. Even though hubby was grumbling about it after our last foray into Vietnamese cuisine, he let me convince him to give at least one more place a try. So this time, we headed out to the west side.

Saigon is in a pretty dingy looking strip mall on Lafayette road. But when you walk in, you notice how tidy everything is, and you feel welcomed. The walls are painted a slightly disturbing shade of pinkish red, but other than that, it has a nice feel. One word of advice, if you are sensitive to air conditioning as I am, notice which hanging lights are swaying in the breeze, and choose to sit at one of the other tables.

We weren’t really sure what we were going to order, and even though several readers recommended I try their pho, after my last experience, I was a little jaded and wanted to get something else. One of these days I will go down that road again, but for now, I am just going to ignore it and get something else because well, maybe that just isn’t my dish.

We decided not to get the lunch specials either (which are a good deal at around $5 and you get a spring roll and soup with your entrée) because they sounded kind of boring --“chicken and broccoli” and stuff like that. I really wanted the chicken and eggplant (#95), so that is what I ordered, and hubby, after reading someone’s comment online, got the crispy egg noodles stir fried with veggies and meat (#60).

First though, I started with small cup of the crabmeat asparagus soup which comes with the lunch specials. I like both those things a lot, so it sounded good to me. It was a thick soup, reminding me of egg drop soup (there was egg in there too) with very very cooked down soft pieces of asparagus and slivers of crab. My first bite was a little fishy tasting (wondering if some of it is the fake “krab”), but after a couple more, it wasn’t bad. I don’t know that I would pay extra to get it with a dinner, but if I got the lunch special, and got the free bowl, I would certainly eat it. I also liked that the bowl was set atop a saucer from Salvatore’s Italian Gardens. Nothing like some serious recycling to make me smile.

When the entrées came out, hubby and I had the same reaction to his dish. We didn’t think it would be good. It was like one of those “bird’s nest” dishes you see at Chinese places. The noodles were fried crispy into a bowl like structure and the meat (shrimp, chicken, beef and squid) and veggies (broccoli, bok choy, onions and carrots) were on top. The whole thing was covered in a clear thick sauce. The noodles, for the moment, were quite crispy, but softened as they sat in the sauce a bit. And the sauce, while not visibly looking very flavorful, combined with the noodles and other things had a nice flavor to it. Not spicy or anything, but interesting. The more I ate it, the more it sort of grew on me. The shrimp were cooked really well (not over or under cooked) and the chicken was tender. The beef was a little weird (seemed almost boiled) and the squid was pretty inedible in its rubbery-ness, but I have yet to find squid in a dish like this that is any good. The broccoli was nice—actually more tender than most stir fries, but with a bite to it also. Hubby declared he probably wouldn’t order it a second time, but we actually quite enjoyed it as we ate it.

My dish was even better (which always makes me happy when I out-order him). The chicken was good-- but the eggplant was amazing. They cut it into small crescents and cooked them till they were melt in your mouth soft which is exactly how I like eggplant. It was in a fairly spicy sate sauce, which really saturated the eggplant (eggplant is so good at that) and made it even better. The only thing I wished, honestly, was that there was more of the sauce because I would have liked to have my rice all covered in it as well and there wasn’t quite enough of it for that. There were also lots of sliced sautéed onions in there giving a nice crunchy bite to the dish.
So they also have a Vietnamese market next door that was quite interesting. I am always most interested in what is going on in seafood area, because that is where you can see if they have any quality fresh stuff. There were several types of fish and check out the gigantic vat of live crayfish. I didn’t see any on the menu (which by the way, is enormous), but was wondering if they will cook some for you if you ask. There were also some live crabs as well. MMMmmmm…

Anyway, this place definitely has merited a repeat visit and hubby has even dubbed it dinner worthy due to the nice selection of Asian beers (he liked the Vietnamese “Saigon” beer the best on this visit). We brought the carry out menu home to study though—there is so much on there, it is going to take awhile to figure out what else to order (hubby wants the chicken and eggplant again he liked it so much).

Saigon Restaurant
3103 Lafayette Road
Indy 46222
317/927-7270

11 comments:

  1. I love this place. Been multiple times and have never had a bad dish. Their cold rolls are so tasty, especially the BBQ cold rolls.

    I've had the dish your hubby got, and it was really good sans the octopus/squid whatever. I'd get it again and ask for it to be left out.

    Overall, great food at very reasonable prices.

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  2. Saigon is one of my "crave" spots, I absolutely love the pork bun, full of fresh crunchy veggies,rice noodles, tender delicious pork, and a fish sauce broth to pour over. Umm, think I'll have to go there this week!

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  3. Saigon is great. I'm glad you enjoyed it. The banh mi are great for a snack if you're in the area, and the quail in the appetizer section is very good.

    Another good Vietnamese place to try is King Wok, north of 38th on Lafayette in the same strip mall as the Patel Brothers grocery store.

    Here's a great resource for use at Vietnamese restaurants:

    http://www.pho411.ca/dish-names/

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  4. That stetech on Lafayette Road, from Saraga Market to Georgetown Road holds a veritable wealth of tasty, local, varied ethnic restaurants.....

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  5. Good stuff. You should try their Asian-style pork chops. Not sure that the establishment is as good as many of the Vietnamese places in Uptown, Chicago but it's probably the best Indy has to offer...Speaking of spicy Asian fare, would you consider reviewing the new Korean taco truck in BR? It's not technically a restaurant, but the fact that this city has a "Kogi Truck"-like offering is pretty amazing and exciting!

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  6. I love Saigon, I have never gotten a bad meal there. I wish there was a
    Vietnamese restaurant on the south side that was as good. I'd love to add Vietnamese to my southside dining choices.

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  7. Probably my favorite restaurant in the city.

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  8. Glad you like Saigon. Good place.

    If you are going to skip pho here and elsewhere (pity, that...) consider trying something else rustic like the rice congee (besides other things). Saigon's versions are pretty decent. Try it with the curdled blood pieces, if you are adventurous. :-)

    Interesting that you and hubby are hesitant about the pan-fried noodles with meat/veggies. This is a common dish in many southern-chinese-influenced cuisines (like Vietnamese) especially Cantonese cuisine. There are various iterations of this dish in East Asian/SE Asian food. I myself like it very much. You can do versions of this with skinny rice noodles ("mei fun"), or fat ones ("hor fun"). There was a version of this that I ate frequently when I was growing up - fat rice noodles pan-fried in a generous amount of very hot oil in a large wok, drained, then over which is poured the accompaniment of stir-fried tenderized beef with lots of sliced scallions and ginger, in a slightly thickened sauce and with a raw egg barely mixed in just before pouring over the fried noodles... YUM!!!

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  9. BTW I second Condimentality's comment about King Wok. Lots of ethnic Vietnamese people patronize that place too, as they do at Saigon.

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  10. When I first moved to Indy 12 years ago there was a place called Saigon on the E. Washington St. that I really liked -- I wonder if these are the same owners?

    I also quite like the tofu rice noodle combination from Long Thanh on 71st St near Binford Blvd (in the same strip mall as GT South's). The decor is not much to look at but I really like that dish.

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  11. Give the pho here a try before you write it off, theirs is the best in town. But I recommend their showstopper: called something like "house bbq platter," it is your choice of delicious grilled meat (or a combo of meats) along with veggies, noodles, and a stack of rice paper sheets so you can make your own spring rolls. The meat is so good, you will lick the platter when it's gone! Also, try the Vietnamese crepe, and I will second the recommendation for the bun, especially on a hot summer day. Don't forget to order the fresh lemonade to go with. Yum!

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Thanks, Erin