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).
3103 Lafayette Road