Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saigon Resturant

Restaurant: Saigon Resturant
Address: 12100 W. Center Rd.
Website: N/A
Genres: Vietnamese
Check Constraints: None known
Chain: No | More Omaha Locations: No

  • Egg Dropsoup ($2.15)
  • Five Spice Chicken Wings($3.50)
  • Five Spice Chicken ($6.25)
  • Strawberry Bubble Tea ($3.25)
I do not like bubble tea. Well, that's an exaggeration. I kinda like the -tea- part of bubble tea, but the bubbles just will not do. I got some anyway, because the glass of water here came with a slice of cucumber in, and that's just not something I can go through a whole meal with as my only drink. Unfortunately, rather than 'strawberry', the flavor tasted rather strongly of strawberry bubble gum.

I also bear nothing but hatred for the egg dropsoup (that's how it's listed on the menu). Rather than the bowl of delicious liquid omelette that I expected and wanted, there was a pile of green onions floating on the top, and -regular- onions lurking in the bottom. The few spoonfuls of soup that I got were decent, but the onions just completely ruined it. On top of that, the five spice chicken wings were less than impressive. There were six of them, which is a plus, but I could hardly taste anything there. There was a bit of chicken flavor and a bit of spice, but it just wasn't that good.

From the appetizers other people ordered, the egg rolls were excellent, the spring rolls are something I need to remember I don't really care for, and the crab rangoon was good enough, if not outstanding.

After the wings, I was a little wary of the five spice chicken (once I got it, anyway. There was a wee mixup with the dish delivery and my first bite was a chunk of Cham's ginger chicken. Delicious, btw) but my concerns were entirely misplaced. There was only a modest serving of veggies, consisting of what we think was pickled daikon, plus pickled carrots and tomatoes. The tomatoes, obviously, went to a side dish, but as it so happens, I adore pickled carrots, and if that was daikon, I like pickled daikon, too. The chicken itself was a boneless breast done up in a five-spice glaze, rather than the dry, roasted surface of the wings, on top of a generous bed of rice, and it was high quality. Like, double plus would order again high quality.

In fact, the only thing here that I liked was the entrees, which I'm pretty sure we all sampled of each other's, because damn, it was high quality. MapleSyrup's barbeque wasn't as good as Moogle's, which was heavenly, but it was still pretty good, and came with the same helping of veggies as mine did, along with a delicious meatball of some sort. Mecha also ordered a plate of fried rice, which turned out to be freaking huge, and we pretty much all had some of that, and it was just as good as everything else.

My final recommendation here is dead simple. Skip the drinks, stick with the cucumber water. Skip the appetizers, just order a plate of fried rice to share among everybody. And then get as much in the way of main dishes as you think you can put away. They're delicious well beyond what their price would indicate.

  • Spring Rolls (4) ($3.50)
  • Lemon Grass and Pepper Beef ($6.50)
  • Combination Fried Rice ($6.25)
  • Jasmine Bubble Tea ($3.25)
The spring rolls were fairly neutral, unfortunately. Strong cabbage and/or cilantro taste depending on the bite, not strong on other flavors. I actually did like the crab rangoon, which I'm not a huge fan of, but I will certainly admit that I could use some better examples of it to know what 'great' is, if this isn't it. It's certainly superior to what I've ever gotten in takeout, and equivalent to what I get at most sit-down restaurants. The five-spice wings were pretty decent, although I found them reminding me of the 'teriyaki' chicken appetizer I get from China Garden in texture and a bit in flavor. The egg rolls were delicious, but so few came. It was sad.

Also, I loves the bubble tea (and the cucumber water. Moogle's right. So crisp.) And jasmine is a flavor I do not get nearly enough of in everyday life. Oh, their bubble tea made me happy. On the other hand, I agree with ND's analysis of his, and I wouldn't much like it either with that flavor. Bleh. So good luck finding a bubble tea flavor you enjoy.

I've been getting in a bad habit of not managing breakfast recently (that I need to break. Again.) So I was hungry and made sure to get a couple dishes (to your great benfit, dear readers!) The combination fried rice had a really fantastic, deep flavor. I dare want to call it wok-hay (or like it), but I'm not enough of an expert in the subject to be sure. It might simply be the effects of a well seasoned pan. Either way, it was definitely the kind of fried rice you actually want to eat, not just, 'Well, it's on my plate and I'm not full yet.' Always a plus.

My lemongrass beef was also fantastic, as lemongrass is a flavor I've come to appreciate where I find it. It can be soft, or it can be powerful, and I really like it when it's used well as they did here. Just enough of it, mixed in with the other flavors. They do it with chicken and other dishes too, so no matter what your meat, I think they'll have you covered. Cham's chicken was pretty good, although it could use a little something in my opinion. Their pork they seem to do well, given Maple and Moogle's experience/dishes, and I don't think a pork dish will disappoint.

This is definitely a place to visit again when I can spare the time. Service was a bit inconsistent/slow with a slight mixup, but the main dish flavors are worth the trip. Bring a friend or a book for something to do while you wait!

  • Crab Rangoon (6) ($3.25)
  • Vietnamese Barbecued Pork Chop ($7.95)
After commenting on the rather cheap soda prices ($1.25), I was told of a vicious rumor that they serve cans of soda (a particular peeve of mine), so I went for water this time. The water was actually interesting. Below the ice that filled only 1/4 to 1/2 the glass was floating a slice of cucumber. I'm not sure if it's a Vietnamese thing or just an attempt to be different or higher class, but the taste is noticeable and not necessarily a bad thing.

The Crab Rangoon were ok. The shell didn't taste of old grease and wasn't too hard, however I prefer my filling a bit sweeter. The spring rolls were spring rolls. They came with a peanut sauce (that's what Cham and Mecha claimed it was. I didn't taste any peanut in there) which had a definite kick to it. I'd say it helped the spring rolls along a bit. Overall, I agree with the others. Skip the appetizers and get a dish of fried rice for the table.

The Vietnamese Barbecued Pork Chop was a Vietnamese Barbecued Pork Chop on a bed of white rice with a slice of beef ball and some pickled daikon and tomato and cucumber slices for garnish. The slice of beef ball was delicious. It was juicy with a mild and not overpowering taste of beef. The next time I go to this place, I'll be looking for a dish that is nothing but 4 or 5 of these things. The pickled daikon, as ND said, was good. The Chop itself had a nice teriyaki taste. It was a thinner piece of meat about the size of my hand. It wasn't too dry and I generally liked it. It came with a side of some very thin, transparent orange sauce. I'd recommend staying away from it unless you're a spicehag. I did a quick dip of my fork into the sauce and took a taste and felt it in my throat for the next couple minutes.

  • Egg Roll and BBQ Pork Vermicelli ($6.99)
The cucumber water was really interesting. It wasn't overpowering, but you could definitely taste it. It had a really clean taste to it, and I wish more places would actually do that. The chicken wings were ok. They were mostly all actual wings, which is only somewhat surprising because "chicken wings" doesn't usually mean chicken wings any more. There are better things to get for your money though. Same goes for the crab rangoon. They were ok, but I'm not a fan of them in general. The spring rolls didn't impress me, but the egg rolls were good. They had more meat in them than you usually get. If you are getting an appetizer, go with these or, as was said above, a plate of fried rice.

Vermicelli is a type of short, thin noodle for those who didn't know (like me). There are so many types of noodles out there it's hard to keep up. I picked this dish because I overheard someone at the next table say they had good vermicelli, the BBQ pork dish sounded interesting, and Maple claimed the BBQ pork first. It came in a fairly large bowl with a side of the same or similar spicy sauce. I got the egg roll and BBQ combo for variety, but it didn't actually add anything to the dish. In fact, I think it reduced the amount of pork, and I am sad I didn't have more pork. It was in small pieces and was thoroughly cooked, but that made the flavor that much stronger. It was really good. I'd suggest only going for the straight BBQ bowl. The noodles were good and mixed with various spears of vegetables. I'm sure there were a few daikon and some bean sprouts. I forget what else. The problem is that the noodles and veggies are fairly plain by themselves. The sauce gives it a bit of kick and the pork gives it a bunch of flavor. If you want the egg rolls, get them on the side.

I have to mention that the service was a little slow, but only because there were maybe three people manning the building. I didn't see more than that. There may have been more cooks, but there wasn't nearly enough waitstaff.

  • Mango/Pineapple Bubble Tea ($3.65)
  • Egg Rolls ($3.25)
  • Ginger & Pepper Chicken ($5.95)
First off, I should mention that we decided to try Saigon based on the recommendation of a commenter to our Vietnamese-Asian Restaurant review! Thanks for the suggestion, and everyone feel free to suggest your favorite restaurant. We'll get around to it eventually!

Echoing what Moogle was saying, the service was pretty poor. It's my guess the waiter was new, as he couldn't identify some of the dishes when they came out, and we wound up almost sending Maple's entree back to the kitchen because some of the dishes went to the wrong people and we wound up with something nobody thought they'd ordered. It all got put right in the end, though, so nothing was lost but a little time. That said, the restaurant was clearly understaffed for the lunch rush. No telling whether that's from bad management or someone just calling in sick and them not having a replacement.

Still, the food was definitely worth the wait. I have to side with Mecha on the bubble tea issue, as mine had a good flavor. It was probably on the average for bubble teas I've had, so it winds up just being a question of finding the right flavor. For what it's worth, I've never had a citrus or mango bubble tea wind up horrible. The appetizers were all pretty forgettable... nothing bad, and nothing overly good, though I will say that the egg rolls were more full of pork than of cabbage and other stuffing substances, which made for a strong flavor you don't usually get. Also, I totally disagree with ND on the issue of the Five Spice Chicken Wings; they had a very excellent chicken flavor, a crispy outside, and a very light hint of five spice powder, rendering out into a flavor combination which I think I'm going to have to replicate with a roast chicken at some point.

It's tough making a call on my main lunch dish. The ginger chicken tasted very, very much of ginger. I like ginger - I really like ginger - but the flavor was pretty much a unilateral thing, swamping chicken, vegetables, and all the other ingredients in the dish. This wound up not being too much of a problem, as the portions here were pretty small for the main dishes, so I didn't get bored with it. The dishes are still a good value for the price, I think, but if you're here with a group, go for the family-style meal: order a bunch of stuff and taste bits off everyone else's dishes, like we did. You'll wind up fuller and you'll experience a lot more of the deliciousness here.

For the record, the dinner menu offers a far larger variety of food, the prices increase by about $1.20 per dish, and the portions increase accordingly. It seems they even offer the "dinner menu" for weekend lunches, so that's a great opportunity to try some interesting dishes without having to risk Saturday night traffic at Center and 120th.

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