FOOD: A Little Taste of Vietnam at Saigon Saigon

September 2, 2011 by · 1 Comment 


September 2, 2011
Special to Falls Church Times

We were out and about strolling through Pentagon Row and decided to stop into Saigon Saigon for dinner. It just caught our attention, and as you may know, I’m a huge fan of Southeast Asian cuisine. I also remember my mother in law telling me that her friend runs this place; so those were 2 pretty solid reasons to give this place a try. Stepping inside, the decoration and the restaurant space were very modern and casual. The exposed ceiling beams, dim lighting and dark wood furniture gave the place a very warm, yet foreign feel. I was hoping that we could sit outside on their patio for dinner, but the weather was a little too muggy. Looking over the menu, I found it very odd that the cuisine was a mix of Vietnamese and Thai. I’m sure the two do complement each other, but it still struck me as odd to see papaya salad listed near spring rolls!

We decided to start with the sampler appetizer platter – crispy fried spring rolls, garden roll, chicken satay and lemongrass skewered beef. The fried spring roll was what I would have expected, a nice meaty filling and a super crispy coating. I thought it needed a little bit more salt and pepper though, as it was kind of mild in flavor. The garden roll was average and nothing out of the ordinary, but the peanut dipping sauce was actually made with peanuts. The sauce even went really well with the chicken satay. The lemongrass beef was good, but again, very mild in flavor. I could get a hint of the lemongrass and herbs, but it wasn’t very strong. I was hoping I could get some fish sauce for dipping.

I ordered hu tieu – roast pork and shrimp with egg noodle soup – for my entrée. When it first came out, the soup was an odd red color. It took me a few minutes to realize it was just the bbq coating from the pork that tinted the broth. I loved that the egg noodles were cooked just right and there was a good helping of watercress in the soup, which also happens to be my favorite vegetable. The broth itself was definitely how I remember hu tieu should taste. It was a very light and aromatic. The minced onions sprinkled throughout the soup did a good job of replicating the fried garlic I’m so used to with this dish. The only other item missing were the crispy fried pieces of fat. But all in all, it was a very solid dish, one that I was happy to devour.

My husband ordered the chicken and mixed vegetables sautéed with a spicy garlic sauce, it was served with a side of steamed broccoli and white rice. It reminded me more of a Thai dish though. And with each bite of chicken and broccoli, your mouth exploded with garlic, but in a good way. After having the appetizers and my hu tieu, it was a definite flavor explosion that I wasn’t prepared for. I would have preferred the dish to be a little spicier though, but other than that, it was good.

We were comparing our thoughts after dinner and my husband and I both agreed that this place wasn’t truly authentic, and couldn’t compare with dishes we get at Eden Center, but was still definitely good for a novice. The flavors that we love were still there, just subdued. This would actually be a great place for someone who wants to try Vietnamese cuisine for the first time; you get to sample the flavors without being overpowered by nuc mam (fish sauce) or garlic.

Saigon Saigon

1101 S. Joyce St.

(703) 412-0822