There are many kinds of restaurant staff:
- The ones who hate their job and aren’t afraid to show it.
- The ones that try too hard and end up being creepy.
- The ones who let the “fame” of the restaurant get to them and look down on the customers.
- And the ones at Saigon.
I hadn’t been to Saigon before last week. I’d seen it there, sitting at the top of Kloof street, looking like it should revolve – but I hadn’t heard much about the food. Now that I have, I kinda wish I knew earlier. I knew it would be a long night of eating when I stalked the online menu.
It’s large, very large.
Starters, salads, sushi, soups, curries, stir-fries, speciality dishes, desserts and more and more and more… It took us quite some time to choose. So we chose a lot.
I had the Vanilla Mango Splash, with vodka, fresh lemon, mango juice, coconut extract and mint. It was dangerous because you can’t taste the alcohol. The coconut isn’t overpowering and it isn’t too sweet – it was heavenly.
My friend had the Cranberry Mao Collins, a significantly stronger tasting drink with gin, lemon, cranberry juice, coconut-infused sugar, soda and basil. The flavour was much sharper, the perfect drink for someone who doesn’t like sweet drinks, but wants a cocktail.
To start we shared:
The Mekong Combo (R99 for 2 people) which is a combination of crispy vegetable rolls, crispy chicken rolls, crystal prawn rolls and beef skewers. In true Thai tradition, the platter comes with lettuce leaves to roll the springrolls and skewers into. The chicken and veg rolls were incredibly flavourful and the skewered beef was well-spiced and tender. The crystal prawn rolls were divine – rice paper filled with mint basil, prawns and vermicelli, served with a peanut-black bean sauce. Amazing.
These were also served with delicious sun-dried chilli paste, sweet-chilli sauce (not the Pick n Pay bottle variety), fish sauce, salt and pepper with lemon juice and infused soya sauce. A combo of flavours, which meant that each mouthful was different.
We also had Tornado Rolls (R99) 8 pieces of spicy tuna California rolls, topped with enormous, juicy tempura prawns, which were drenched in a red bean and Japanese mayo sauce. The portion was enormous and was perfect as a starter to share, but could easily be a main course.
The final starter was the Sunomono (R50) a deconstructed sashimi salad, with salmon, tuna, seared tuna, crabstick, prawn, fish roe, beancurd, avo, cucumber, carrot, and seaweed served with vinaigrette. I made the mistake of pouring too much of the dressing over the “salad” and I didn’t actually like it as I felt it distracted from the taste of the sashimi, which I prefer to eat without too many trimmings. However, the dish was gorgeous and incredibly affordable.
Without the dressing, it would have been magical.
It sometimes happens that I will go to a restaurant and ask for tasting portions of a few dishes so that I can taste more and let you know what I think, so…
First up was Crispy Ginger Fish (R120) fillets in a sweet but spicy fish sauce and ginger sauce. In my opinion is was a bit too fishy as a result of a bit too much fish sauce going into the sauce. However, it was well cooked and with the right balance, it could have been delicious.
We then had gorgeous, lightly-bettered Peppered Prawns (R110) with garlic, chilli, pepper and pickled veg. This dish was great, just my kinda thing. The batter wasn’t overpowering, the pickles added a lovely bite and the prawns were spicy and juicy.
Finally, the amazing Colony Beef (R125). Seared fillet on a bed of Asian greens, drizzled with 3 types of soya sauce. The fillet was rare, tender and peppery – no matter how well a piece of meat is seasoned or cooked, it would not be that soft unless it was incredible quality, which it was. A definite must-have.
We tried not to have dessert. We tried real hard. Real, real hard. I mean, who would eat dessert after all of that food? Well, me.
For dessert we shared:
A very boozy Rum-flambéed, deep-fried banana with vanilla ice cream (R42). I think we turned the fire “off” too soon because my friend panicked that “OMG THE BANANA IS BURNING” so we blew the flame out. For this reason, it was a tad too boozy but when I ate around the alcohol, it was absolutely stunning. The banana wasn’t overly cooked, the batter was light and the ice cream, well, creamy.
As I said all the way at the top of this review, you get a few types of restaurant staff. The ones you want to get, the ones you hope for, the ones you want to see again are the ones at Saigon. I left feeling like I was the most important person I the world. And it wasn’t just me. Every single customer who sets foot in the restaurant is treated… beautifully. They are professional from start to finish and it was an absolute pleasure eating and eating and eating and eating there.
PS: They have a private upstairs area that you can use for functions, which leads out onto the roof. It seats 25 and you need to spend a minimum of R4000. I’ll do the maths, that’s R160 each. *curtsey*