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Saigon Cafe, Seven Corners - Closed

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ScotteeM said:
Friday lunch at Saigon Cafe (across from the Eden Center).
DonRocks said:
And Washingtonian says it's good, and?

I ate lunch there twice a few months ago, not long after Sietsema reviewed it. The first time I was alone and had a seafood-noodle pho, which was delicious. I recall thoroughly enjoying the second meal, but now I can't remember the dishes we ate. There was an interesting salad with rice crackers and clams, that Tom had mentioned in his review, and a couple of other very unusual (to me) dishes. Everything was very fresh, with clean, bright flavors.

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And Washingtonian says it's good, and?

I wasn't wowed on my first visit a few months ago, especially by the mysterious yellow powder in the bottom of my glass of "Fresh-squeezed Lemonade," but this time instead of allowing the server to choose my lunch, I chose it myself, and it was very enjoyable. I had Bo Tai Chanh, a salad of romaine and watercress topped with thin slices of medium-rare flank steak. It was all very fresh and tasty. I also tried Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio, rice vermicelli with grilled pork and crispy roll. Also fresh and delicious. I took half of each home for lunch the next day, and both were good cold. Service was spotty. Food arrived promptly, but my water glass stood empty for a long stretch until I caught the eye of a waitress who sent someone to fill it. I'll go back.

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Had an interesting brunch here today.

I started with a combination rice cake platter (S.4 Bánh Huê Dac Biet) which consisted of the following:

Bánh Bèo - Steamed thin-rice-cakes with shredded shrimp (bland and boring, the shredded shrimp didn't add much flavor)

Bánh Ít Ram - Steamed-flour cakes stuffed with shrimp on crunchy rice cakes (this tasted good but the crunchy rice cake was deep fried in not so fresh oil).

Bánh Uot thit Nuong - Grilled pork, mint, lettuce & bean sprout wrapped in steamed rice-flour-sheet (really tasty grilled pork).

Shrimp patty - fairly tasty shrimp paste

The platter comes with (i) fish sauce like the ones served with Vietnamese spring rolls, (ii) a different fish sauce with chili peppers that's not sweet, (iii) a purplish peanut sauce with a hint of sugar, (iv) a container of hot sauce (much hotter than Sriracha), and (v) a container of purplish gray crab or shrimp paste.

The crab/shrimp paste is definitely an acquired taste. Very very salty and fishy. I didn't much like the peanut sauce either. I ended up dipping my rice cakes mostly in the chili that's already on the table. I like rice noodles but not the concept of it being the main feature. (I also don't go nuts over congee).

I followed that with a bowl of Bún Bò Huê - beef noodle soup with round rice noodle (it's thick and round, almost like udon)

with sliced beef shank and pork patty. The soup is flavored quite differently from pho, wth lots of herbs that tastes slightly medicinal to me. I was not a fan of the soup and didn't care for the noodles either.

If you never try central Vietnam cooking, I don't think you're really missing out much.

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I was there for lunch yesterday and rather enjoyed it. I had lotus root salad, which was fresh, light and crunchy, with shreds of lotus root rather than the expected crosscuts. And then a Vietnamese pancake, which was an eggy, puffy omelet stuffed with bean sprouts, shrimp and pork. It was presented with large lettuce leaves, and stalks of cilantro and mint. We tried making lettuce wraps, but they fell apart, and we opted for more conventional plating. Fresh and crunchy, if a bit on the bland side.

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