I see red I see red I see red
My first taste of SaigonSaigon was at the Jenius Book Launch and tonight I'm invited as a guest to try some of the other dishes which I've been curious in comparing with other Vietnamese restaurants. I've always wanted to feel like a Gordon Ramsay walking into a restaurant like Kitchen Nightmares to observe how things could be improved but of course this place is no nightmare and they certainly need no help with the fantastic decor which is welcoming, contemporary and classy — they apparently also received an excellent rating for cleaniness of the kitchen from authorities. To start the Lemon and Soda Drink and Pineapple and Mint Frappe are both very refreshing and delicious. They help to cool me down as I feel the dining room has retained some heat from the days heat wave. I'm not sure if the restaurant has air con but after the rear balcony doors are opened a cooling breeze is allowed to drift through.
For entree I'm intrigued by the lotus root used in the Beef Salad which has a delightful taste and works well — I can't remember trying lotus root before but apparently it's authentic so I'll be looking out for it next time. I wish the beef salad came on top of a large black sesame seed prawn cracker like Thanh Binh use for their Green Papaya Salad but the normal prawn crackers still work OK for topping. The filling for the Vietnamese Pancake is well balanced with decent amounts of prawn throughout without having too many bean sprouts. Possibly one of the better ones I've had around town although we agreed it could have been cooked a bit longer to give it a crisper outer shell. The Sugar Cane Prawns are decently sized and tasty which are used in the DIY rolls. The version at Thanh Binh in Cabramatta still reigns supreme as the biggest and best around town I've tried though. One thing I noticed absent with the entrees was a selection of Vietnamese herbs and mint which adds that freshness and flavour unique to Vietnamese cuisine. I'm not sure about the inclusion of sliced onion on the salad which I haven't really come across and think it would be much better replaced with fresh minty herbs, cucumber slices and extra pickled carrot.
Onto mains with the tasty Pork Clay Pot which had good flavour. The Soft Shell Crab had a good crunch factor although I think it could have benefited with a side dipping sauce. I've had plenty of Soft Shell Crab before with Longrain being one of my favourites along with Snakebean, Phamish and Akaneya. This version was pretty decent in size although the coating was perhaps a little thicker than others — I've been told the Salt and Pepper Squid and Prawns is a signature dish to try next time. A good variety of fresh vegetables came with the Wok Seared Greens. Desserts were simply presented with the Deep Fried Banana Fritters being my favourite — batter was thin and crisp and bananas moist and tasty, a good way to end the meal.
Service was friendly although has received some negative comments in the past from Eatability about being slow. I think I could see this potentially happening during busy times if there wasn't enough staff on because it's quite a sizable restaurant with blind spots created by the mirrored partition which divides the restaurant — perhaps something for the owner to keep an eye on.
Wok seared greens $15.50
Sticky rice pudding with taro
Men's toilet — Famous Vietnamese Water Puppet
Fish and bamboo wall feature
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