Saigon Bistro

Broken rice topped with grilled pork and a fried egg

There I go, sneaking into a place barely open two weeks. But I had to: My “field researchers” had good things to say about the chow at Saigon Bistro. And, I’m a sucker for good Vietnamese food.

The former location of Juarez was a ticky–tacky hangout of mine. The endless salsa and cheap margaritas were the lure. The proximity to my house was the deciding factor.

Saigon Bistro has done quite a clean–up from the old Juarez days. It’s bright and shiny — and the kitchen doesn’t look nearly as scary.

The menu is basic Vietnamese with hints of Thai thrown in for good measure.I played it safe, sticking with broken rice topped with grilled pork and a fried egg. It was good, but not revolutionary. Crispy bits of pork added interest to the rice and the over–easy egg yolk did its best to ramp up the party — to no avail.

The plate was nicely presented, which gives me hope that the kitchen is finding its legs. A vinegar and fish sauce was remarkably without flavor when poured over the pork and rice. Good portion size, sure, and a gratifying meal — but overall lacking pizzazz.

A pair of pork skin rolls were big and fresh, but again not that flavorful — thank goodness for an ample dipping bowl of peanut sauce. The rolls were filling, the thinly sliced pork skins chewy. Hey,  no “little frou–frou” neatly wrapped glass noodle rolls here — these are made for working guys and girls!

And while the food may have been hot, the service was tepid. Our waitress was as tentative about the food as she was the delivery.

Have patience, grasshopper. I like to give a new kid a break, and a new restaurant time to gain its momentum.

If I could offer a word of advice, it would be the word “confidence.” This is food that has the potential to fill a void, to deliver on flavor and imagination. Drop the inhibitions and challenge my palate.

Diners around us seemed to offer mixed feelings, from one audible “inedible” to young and old quickly cleaning their plates. Food truly is that subjective.

I’ll be back. The menu promises that “coming soon” will be Banh Mi (the French–inspired Vietnamese sandwich) and Banh Xeo (Vietnamese crepe).

Saigon Bistro/5700 Waters Ave.


About The Author

Tim Rutherford

Tim Rutherford grew up in rural Kentucky – then left home to pursue more than three decades as a photojournalist and newsman. A ground-breaking meal in New Orleans in 1979 set him on a path exploring food and wine. Six years ago he changed career paths – now spending his time writing about the people and places...
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