Growing up quarter Vietnamese certainly has its advantages. From a young age, I’ve been exposed to some of the freshest most delicious varieties of food on the face of this planet. I’ve been taught how to use food in their raw states and pair them with the best complimentary flavours which create a cosmic explosion in the diner’s mouth. While my grandmother has never taught me how to speak Vietnamese, nor have I travelled to Vietnam (but come this May that will be a different story…), she’s given me my foundation in Vietnamese cuisine. Until eight or so years ago, my grandmother owned a market and traditional Vietnamese restaurant here in Portland (Nu’s on Washington Ave), and when she closed down, my Vietnamese meals were quite limited. There was no longer a plethora of pho for me to eat, and I couldn’t just walk in to her home and expect a freshly fried egg-roll to be awaiting my already salivating mouth. So this year, when I first heard about Saigon, I had my doubts. It had been a while since a good Vietnamese restaurant had nestled it’s way into the Portland Restaurant Industry. The first time I went, I was absolutely shocked- the food was incredible, so fresh, so clean, and just well-prepared. I thought to myself that it must have been a fluke, so I made myself go a second time, and then a third time without reviewing the place. Now, as a frequent customer, whose never been remotely disappointed, I felt it was safe to finally give a review of Saigon, for all those who are interested in Vietnamese food! Like all Asian restaurants in Portland, the interior of Saigon is tacky. When you take a seat- which to be honest, I’ve always sat at the same table every time I’ve been there– your waitress will rush over with bowls of crab soup, perhaps one of the most comforting traditional vietnamese dishes, take your drink orders, and dash off again. The crab soup is thick, and full of vegetables and tofu, and typically will be gone in an instant– even on a hot summer day.
Two of my favorite beverages to order are the Iced Coffee with Creme, and the Avocado smoothie. I’m a sucker for Vietnamese coffee, you’re all aware of that by now, and because I basically lived on avocados last summer, it’s obvious that I’d also be a sucker for avocado smoothies. It’s a difficult flavor to describe, because there’s certainly a faint taste of pure avocado, but there’s also a complex sweet background that compliments that creamy, nutty flavors the avocado provides.
The crispy fried dumplings are also quite delicious- filled with pork, ginger, and a little bit of cabbage, I could eat an entire plate. The dough isn’t overwhelming, which has been an issue at other Asian restaurants as of recent times- and when it’s fried extra crispy, the saigon dumplings are a bite of heaven.
For my entree I ordered the Vermicelli with egg-rolls and grilled prawns. The thai basil, fresh mint, shredded lettuce, bean sprouts, daikon radish, and carrots, mixed with the fish sauce, and sriracha was so good. I love vermicelli anyway, but the combo of hot and cold, both in taste and temperature was perfect. Such a refreshing bite of food, not to mention, relatively healthy too! Agh… I feel like I’ve lost my knack for describing the flavors, but I suppose this means you’ll have to go and try it for yourself. Other entrees I’ve ordered have been the pho, the pork chop with a fried egg and rice, and poached chicken with ginger sauce over vermicelli! Everything is really delicious and fresh.
Sam ordered the pad thai noodles with beef- while I would never choose that combo, I was glad to see that they included a slice of lime and a healthy portion of bean sprouts. I’m really picky about my pad thai, but I think Sam enjoyed his, and that’s all that counts. Overall, I think that Saigon is the best Vietnamese restaurant in Portland. Thanh Thanhh 2 is quite good too, but their pho isn’t nearly as delicious, and their vermicelli also lacks something as well. I’d suggest driving down Forest Ave, and take a trip into Saigon- for great food, and not a lot of money, you’ll leave well-fed, happy, and still experiencing cosmic explosions in your mouth.