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Saigon Grill, New York, NY


Fat Guy
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A search this morning revealed approximately 35 mentions of Saigon Grill in various eG Forums posts, but no actual topic devoted to Saigon Grill. I was hoping to remedy that.

Saigon Grill is a two-restaurant "chain" with locations on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side. The restaurants are popular and active, usually filled to capacity at mealtimes. They offer speedy delivery. And once you learn your way around the menu you can put together an excellent meal.

My favorite dishes -- the ones I think are as good as at any Vietnamese restaurant I've visited -- are:

Numbers 3, 4 and 5 -- Goi Cuon Tom, Goi Cuon Chay and Goi Cuon Go -- shrimp, vegetarian and chicken summer rolls respectively. These are very well made summer rolls, served with peanut plum dipping sauce. These are great also if you need to pack a highly portable lunch.

Number 19 -- Goi Du Du -- shredded green papaya salad with little pieces of grilled beef (the meat is basically a garnish), basil and crushed peanuts. This dish is so good and holds up so well under refrigeration that we almost always order an extra to take home (or we order two when we do delivery).

Numbers 26 and 27 - La Sa Tom and La Sa Ga -- curry shrimp soup and curry chicken soup respectively. The soup has coconut milk, rice vermicelli, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs -- you add the bean sprouts and herbs yourself (they're packed in a little zipper bag when you get delivery so don't forget to use them!). It's a really nice, fragrant soup that rivals any version I've had.

They have pretty good satay ("sate" on their menu), but my preference is to order:

Number 80 -- Bun -- the deal with bun is that you can get satay as a subset of bun. The foundation of bun is room temperature rice vermicelli with cucumber, lettuce, bean sprouts, crushed peanut and fresh herbs in nuoc cham sauce. Then you get to pick any of a number of toppings, most of which are making guest appearances from the appetizer section of the menu. So, for example, "Bun with grilled chicken" is actually bun with an order of chicken satay on top of it. Ditto for grilled beef. You can also get it with spare ribs (very good), spring rolls (okay), whatever. And given that an order of chicken satay appetizer is $4.75 and bun with grilled chicken is $7.95 it seems silly not to get the bun.

The entrees are the weak part of the Saigon Grill menu. I've had more entree duds than I care to remember. I haven't tried them all, but the one that I've found to be consistently very good is:

Number 45 -- Bo Luc Lac -- these are simple cubes of stir-fried steak, which are of much higher quality than, say, average Chinese restaurant beef. There's not much to the dish, but it's very good.

Would love to hear all of your Saigon Grill thoughts and strategies.

Upper East Side:

1700 2nd Ave. (Corner of 88th Street)

New York, NY 10128

Phone: 212.996.4600

Fax: 212.996.6303

Upper West Side:

620 Amsterdam Ave. (Corner of 90th St)

New York, NY 10024

Phone: 212.875.9072

Fax: 212.875.9126

Online:

http://www.saigongrill.com

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Probably my favorite restaurant in the city. my husband and I work around the block from the Upper West Side location, so we're there regularly and order in MORE regularly.

My number one favorite dish is: (copied off Menupages, cause I'm too lazy...)

78. Bun Xao Stir - Fried Rice Noodles with Shredded Vegetables, Egg and Crushed Peanut, served with Nuoc Cham Sauce On The Side ( Choice of Shrimp of Chicken or Vegetarian

I usually get it with tofu. lots of the nuoc cham and lots of chili sauce as well.

I agree with most of Fat Guy's picks; the summer rolls, the papaya salad, the curry soups -- I also love #1, the spring rolls...they may be an acquired taste though, because they're a little weird. the teriyaki steak cubes are wonderful, always tender and flavorful and I love the taro chips.

Their sushi is ok. good spicy tuna roll. They have something called tuna tiradito that I'd never heard of...slices of raw tuna topped with minced garlic and a nice splash of strong truffle oil. Interesting.

Tuesday night we skipped appetizers and he got:

Ga Sate: (Sauteed White Meat Chicken Within Sate Sauce On Top of Pineapple, Cucumber, Bean Sprouts, Tomato, Herb & Crushed Peanuts ( Slightly Spicy )), which was very good but VERY rich and I got:

Curry Thit: Sauteed Sliced Pork with Vegetables In Coconut Milk and Curry Sauce, served with Pancakes, which was very spicy in a nice mouth filling way...but not enough pork and the dish was kinda ruined by the addition of bell peppers. Had I known the bell peppers were in the dish I would have requested none. There were several slices of eggplant though which added body and substance, so in all, i'd recommend it.

And oddly enough...they make the best pina colada in the city... :cool:

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I've had my eye on number 78 a few times but have never ordered it. Now I will.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've had my eye on number 78 a few times but have never ordered it. Now I will.

I'm with lia on this - the bun xao with chicken is a favorite comfort food of mine (though, I have to admit, it's one of the few things I think is better at L'Annam on Third Avenue in the 20's, but that's obviously too far for delivery :wink:). I've lived within a few blocks (albeit in two different apartments) of the UES location for about three years now, and I'm completely addicted.

I also enjoy number 12, the barbecued spare ribs with plum sauce. These come with some pickles, too, and are meaty and goooood. Another couple of favorites are the banh hoi (number 81), which is similar to the bun Steven describes upthread - except that the noodles are steamed. I get this one when I'm feeling guilty about the stir-friedness of the bun xao.

I'm a sucker for Vietnamese food - you slap chilis and nuoc cham on anything, and I'll eat it up like it's manna from heaven. I just love the spicy, salty and sweet altogether. Mmm-mmmm good. :smile:

Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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It's the drier kind that's usually in thai curries...chewy.

Is it steamed, stir-fried, deep-fried . . . ?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It's the drier kind that's usually in thai curries...chewy.

Is it steamed, stir-fried, deep-fried . . . ?

Not steamed, not deep fried, so probably sauteed along with the rest of the ingredients...but I think the tofu starts out drier and chewier...unlike clouds of fresh tofu that would fall apart in the dish.

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My sis, who went to Barnard but no longer lives in NYC is visiting tonight and we have decided to go to Saigon Grill. But we both thought it was located on Broadway the last time we were there about 5 years ago. Has it moved? Or is it our memories??

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My sis, who went to Barnard but no longer lives in NYC is visiting tonight and we have decided to go to Saigon Grill. But we both thought it was located on Broadway the last time we were there about 5 years ago. Has it moved? Or is it our memories??

Yep, it moved a few years ago. 90th and Amsterdam now.

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Almost everything is good there. Solid everytime. There's nothing amazing though.

My experience has been a little different. I think there are a number of amazing items (painstakingly enumerated above) and quite a few poor ones. For example, the basil beef, basil chicken, basil anything: the sauces are sweet and gloppy, reminiscent of bad American-Cantonese food from the 1970s. I've found that to be the case with many of the entree dishes from the heart of the menu. Whereas, on the whole, most appetizer, soup and noodle/rice dishes I've tried from Saigon Grill have been exceptional.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Almost everything is good there. Solid everytime. There's nothing amazing though.

My experience has been a little different. I think there are a number of amazing items (painstakingly enumerated above) and quite a few poor ones. For example, the basil beef, basil chicken, basil anything: the sauces are sweet and gloppy, reminiscent of bad American-Cantonese food from the 1970s. I've found that to be the case with many of the entree dishes from the heart of the menu. Whereas, on the whole, most appetizer, soup and noodle/rice dishes I've tried from Saigon Grill have been exceptional.

Well I suppose it depends on how you define "amazing." For me, its something that I crave and will remember for a very long time. Nothing at Saigon Grill is like that, and I've eaten there many, many times, being a CU student.

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If I don't have it for a week, I actively crave number 19.

A craving anecdote: we have a friend who moved to Pittsburgh last year. She was in town a couple of days ago and came over for dinner. I had planned to make angel hair pasta with black truffles -- truffles! -- but when it came down to talking about the dinner plan she sheepishly confessed, "You know what I really want? Number 27. I can't stop thinking about it. Can we get number 27 for dinner? Please?"

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I don't find it amazing but very very very good. And I always order the Bo Luc Lac and agree with Fat Guy's first post for the most part.

BUT, there is SOMETHING about that bo luc lac and me and my friends can't put our finger on it. Something in it, something about it, makes you miss it when you can't have it. We're starting to think it's laced with opium, which actually happened to a girl who spend a summer in India back in school - a local ice cream parlor had this amazing ice cream they kept going back for. Long story short they all had to go through rehab.

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Steven, how would you compare this place to Pho Grand?  My prior experiences with Saigon Grill, which was some time ago, were not impressive.

Pho Grand is, in my opinion, a better restaurant from a whole-menu perspective: it's good across the board. I believe, however, that the Saigon Grill items I've specifically mentioned are better than their Pho Grand equivalents where such equivalents exist. For example I think the quality of beef in Saigon Grill's Bo Luc Lac is quite superior to Pho Grand or New Pasteur. It should be -- it costs $12.95 as opposed to $7 at the downtown places and at least some of that price differential seems to go into the product. There aren't always on-point comparisons, though. I haven't actually seen the Goi Du Du/green papaya salad at any of the other Vietnamese restaurants I've tried here -- it seems in many ways more like a Thai dish than a Vietnamese one but that's just an impressionistic statement. I'm by no means expert in this cuisine.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Given the existence of of the movie, "Scent of Green Papya", which in part revolves around green papaya salad and the results of a quick Google search, I'm pretty sure green papaya salad is a popular dish in Viet Nam. Its also I think on the menu of Pho Grand and I have found that in general, South East Asian restaurants have it even when its not on the menu. I think its a regional dish.

I happen to have had the Bo Luc Lac last week at Pho Grand, and thought the beef quality was reasonably high.

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  • 7 months later...

Okay, so WHAT'S UP with the Upper East Side branch of Saigon Grill? There has been an "under renovation" message on the voicemail there for weeks and weeks. Can somebody in that sector of the 'hood wander by and take a look?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Almost everything is good there. Solid everytime. There's nothing amazing though.

My experience has been a little different. I think there are a number of amazing items (painstakingly enumerated above) and quite a few poor ones. For example, the basil beef, basil chicken, basil anything: the sauces are sweet and gloppy, reminiscent of bad American-Cantonese food from the 1970s. I've found that to be the case with many of the entree dishes from the heart of the menu. Whereas, on the whole, most appetizer, soup and noodle/rice dishes I've tried from Saigon Grill have been exceptional.

I agree I find the entrees gloppy and cloyingly sweet. As a result I just don't agree with all the hype about Saigon Grill. And personally, I don't even think the appetizers and soups are that impressive relative to versions I've had at New Pasteur or Nha Trang or even Bao Noodles. The pho is mediocre, and there's always an off taste to the goi cuon. The bun is the only thing I usually order there, and even that is just ok to me/you're hungry after 1 hr. Nearly every Vietnamese place I've been to anywhere is superior to Saigon Grill, and yet it's packed and people rave about it. I just don't get it.

(Maybe it's just a location thing. Shun Lee Palace also gets similarly hyped up and it's just the location I think.)

Edited by jeanki (log)
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Okay, so WHAT'S UP with the Upper East Side branch of Saigon Grill? There has been an "under renovation" message on the voicemail there for weeks and weeks. Can somebody in that sector of the 'hood wander by and take a look?

I HAVE wandered by...it's right across from my laundromat. They look like they're doing major renovations...plywood covering the whole storefront, and a big sign saying how to get in touch with their other locations, etc.

So irritating...as much as I agree with some of what jeanki says above, they are still pretty solid delivery in the 'hood, and I miss my bun xao (which definitely doesn't leave me hungry an hour later).

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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call it a corollary to the Brooklyn theory (that any halfway decent Manhattan-esque restaurant in Brooklyn with slightly below-Manhattan prices automatically gets overpraised by locals):

any halfway decent ethnic restaurant on the UES automatically is overpraised merely for existing (especially if it delivers).

SG is seriously not in the same league as Pho Bang, New Pasteur or Nha Trang (to me the fundamental item a Vietnamese restaurant should get right is its pho....Saigon Grill doesn't manage that)...(I'm excluding "fancier" places like Bao 111)

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  • 6 months later...

A few signs of life...the scaffolding is down, and it looks like the windows have been replaced...could they be opening soon?

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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