Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Only One In All Of Fort Wayne

On our rather short drive from our hotel to Casa D'Angelo for dinner on Friday night, the car just happened to pass a Thai / Chinese / Vietnamese / American eatery called Saigon Restaurant. The odd thing about it wasn't that it was an amalgamation of cuisines, but that it had very odd hours, open every day at 9 am and closed by 7 pm. Knowing that I already had my lunch planned out for Saturday, I just let it drop when I came to the sad conclusion that I wouldn't be able to visit the restaurant while I was here in Fort Wayne.

Located at 2006 South Calhoun Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802, they can also be reached at 260-456-8550. As is typical with very small mom and pop restaurants, there is currently no website available.

As you will no doubt learn in my next post on Powers Hamburgers, fate intervened in a strange way and I found myself falling back on a Plan B for lunch. Gee? Have lunch at a little Vietnamese mom and pop place or McDonalds? The decision was excruciatingly easy to make. I hopped in the car and before you knew it, I was sitting inside the cozy little restaurant that was a cross between a diner and a more traditionally decorated Asian eatery.

As soon as I saw the menu,

I began to understand the reason for the plethora of cuisines. Apparently the breakfast they served was of the American variety. Eggs, toast, bacon, you name it. However, everything else was pure Asian goodness. Wanting to maximize my exposure to the menu, I decided that I would get an appetizer and a cold rice noodle dish. Having had goi cuon before at other Vietnamese restaurants, I wanted to see how Saigon's version fared. Unfortunately, the menu listed them at 4 rolls for $6. Knowing that this was way more than I needed, I asked my server if I could do a half-order and she dutifully complied with my request.

Here was a shot of my rice paper summer rolls and the hoisin dipping sauce with crushed peanuts:

Filled with cold cooked shrimp, lettuce, cold vermicelli rice noodles, fresh mint and carrots, these were sweet, refreshing, and just a little bit chewy because of the rice paper wrapper. The dipping sauce wasn't anything unique to the Saigon Restaurant, but added a nice bit of tanginess to the overall flavor profile. I'm definitely certain had I eaten an entire order, I would've been completely full. If there was one thing I've learned from watching food-related traveling shows, many times restaurants will give you half-sized portions simply if you ask. The worse thing they can say is "no", right? Fortunately, this time I got to have my summer rolls and eat them, too.

Even before I had finished my goi cuon, the rest of my lunch arrived from the kitchen:

This was pretty standard on most menus that offer Vietnamese food, even if the flavors were slightly different. Essentially you have cooked and cooled vermicelli rice noodles on top of bean sprouts, shredded iceberg lettuce, and julienned cucumber. This layer represented the "base." On top of that you can add a number of additional toppings. Today I decided to do a two-flavor pork. First there was the roasted pork that was in the upper right part of the bowl. On the lower left part of the bowl was a pork egg roll that had been sliced into individual bites.

Here was a side shot of the pork egg roll:

Accompanying every noodle dish was the obligatory nuoc cham:

This liquid combines sweet, sour, salty, and fishy flavors (from Nam Pla, or fish sauce) to make a uniquely aromatic sauce when used in combination with the noodles. I normally use it like a liquid dressing and add as much as I need over the pork and noodles to add some extra flavor. Also, if you were wondering what the light fixtures looked like at Saigon Restaurant, check out the reflection in the surface of the nuoc cham.

Of course, no Vietnamese rice noodle dish would be complete without the globally popular Srirachi garlic chili sauce:

Made with simply garlic, chilies, vinegar and salt, this stuff rocks all on its own. When added to my lunch, it just made the dish explode with flavor and heat. I honestly think that a bottle of this stuff should be in every refrigerator in the country. I do love Tabasco on my eggs, but Sriracha puts it over the top. It turns out I added enough of this spicy elixir to force me to blow my nose twice during the course of the meal; it was so worth it.

I finished up my meal and walked over to the cash register to pay the check. While the young man rang up my change, I asked him if he knew of other good Vietnamese restaurants in Fort Wayne. He looked at me, furrowed his brow for just a moment, and said, "I don't think there are any other Vietnamese places in Fort Wayne." He wasn't kidding either. As soon as I walked outside, I pulled up the location for Saigon Restaurant on my Google phone and kept zooming out waiting for other spots to show up using "Vietnamese restaurants" as my search criteria. None appeared.

I'm particularly glad that a series of happy accidents led me to try Saigon Restaurant today for lunch and I'm fortunate that the one Vietnamese offering that Fort Wayne did have did an excellent job of preparing tasty and authentic food. As with my last post on Casa D'Angelo, if you live in Fort Wayne or are passing through, they are definitely worth looking up, assuming that you are available for lunch or an early dinner. I heartily recommend this restaurant.

Saigon Restaurant on Urbanspoon Saigon Restaurant on Restaurantica


Anonymous said...

My friends and I are eating there tomorrow for the first time. It all sounds good, but I'm a little worried. I have fish allergies and it seems like a lot of their food has fish sauce or something along those lines. Have you been there more since your last visit. If so, what do you recommend?

Tino said...

While I definitely didn't have a problem communicating in English to my server, I would obviously mention your fish allergy and the server may be able to suggest something appropriate. That being said, expecting to eat a cuisine that relies so heavily on fish-based products (like fish sauce) might not be the smartest of places to eat if you have a fish allergy.

Also, I have only eaten there once, so I am certainly no expert on the entire menu.

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