When I open up a menu and see hundreds of dishes on offer, it immediately makes me nervous, mostly because I know that I'm bound to miss out on some good things because the mere thought of reading through all the dishes and descriptions gives me an instant headache. That's where the waiter comes in handy - I ask him to recommend how many dishes we should order to share between three of us and he obliges by sharing his estimations and highlighting some of the restaurant's signature dishes. I'm told that the golden spring rolls are definitely a winner, and boy are they - crisp golden spring rolls served with rice noodles, lettuce cups, cucumber and mint with soy sauce to season are the perfect start to the meal. Also to start, we try some steamed prawn dumplings which were a little bland and some juicy lamb pot stickers both served with a chilli dipping sauce. We also threw in an order of tuna crunch sushi which was delicious and impossible to fit one whole piece in your mouth (believe me, I tried). The tuna was still fresh and raw in the middle of the roll, surrounded by sticky rice which was then deep fried and topped with mayo and sweet chilli.
With our stomachs lined with starters, it was time to get down to the meaty main part of the meal. We order the pork ribs, Colony Beef and garlic egg fried rice to accompany. The pork ribs are literally finger licking good - sweet and sticky, topped with crispy fried garlic and fresh spring onion over the top - we were fighting over the last rib, that's how good they are! The colony beef fillet is pan fried to a perfectly succulent medium rare; then topped with wonderfully sweet and sticky soy dressing all nestled on a bed of crunchy broccoli and green beans. The garlic egg fried rice was the perfect accompaniment to absorb all the juices from the beef.
We ate far too much and didn't get to try any desserts, but there are a few on the menu. Sorbets, coconut flan and deep fried bananas just to name a few.
The drinks menu, although not quite as daunting as the food menu, is also quite extensive. Wines ate mostly all sold by the bottle, but there is a small list of wines offered by the glass as well. There is a selection of wines dubbed the "Saigon Special selection" which is their curated premium wine selection. There is a huge selection of both classic cocktails as well as well as the Saigon signature cocktails which are their unique takes on classic cocktails which include some Asian ingredients and infusions.
Waiters are always moving at lightning speed maneuvering between tables and patrons, they move in an almost rhythmic manner attending to each of their tables with efficiency and speed. The staff is helpful when trying to navigate through the large menu and help point out what sides to order, if necessary.
The restaurant is located on a rather steep slope, so if you're parked at the bottom of the slope, walking up to the front door will help burn the calories you're about to consume inside. The restaurant interior is predominantly black and red with subtle glimmers of gold from the guilded poles in the dining area.
Tables are dark laminated wood and are simply set with chopsticks and disposable napkins.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
The cuisine here is pleasant and interesting and the fact that there’s a great Asian store underneath the restaurant is the cherry on top. Once you’ve dined, you can pop downstairs, fully inspired by your meal, and purchase ingredients to create your own dishes.
The menu is extensive, with everything from sushi to pho to noodles and curries, meat dishes and much, much more available. One may opt for platters but it’s most enjoyable to select a few dishes off the menu and share between diners. The dishes are all inspired from Vietnamese first principles, and one can see into the kitchen where huge flames are firing woks creating flavoursome stir fries and exciting exotic dishes.
Definite must-tries include the Asian-style pho bo, which is a clear beef broth prepared in a very traditional Vietnamese way, served with noodles, and is very flavoursome. Prawn crystal salad rolls – an almost see-through rice paper wrap you assemble yourself – with mint, carrot, vermicelli and basil is served with a fragrant peanut dipping sauce. It’s a traditional Vietnamese street snack. There’s also ginger prawns with chilli and fish sauce. The chicken, chilli and lemongrass is a fragrant chicken dish stir-fried and a highlight is the Saigon wok beef. There are numerous vegetarian options on the vast menu to please any palate.
Set menus are also available for diners who prefer to try a little bit of everything.
The wine list is simple but serves its purpose. There are no exotic wines on the menu but a limited and satisfying offering is available at a reasonable price point. Beer and spirits are also on offer, plus a wide variety of soft drinks.
You may find yourself forgotten about for large periods of time and flagging down your waitron.
Though Saigon is somewhat of a landmark in Johannesburg, specifically for those who love Asian food, the restaurant itself is now worn and a little worse for wear. A good paint and some new décor would go a long way to making the dining experience a lot more pleasant.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
If you’re after authentic Asian fare in Cape Town, look no further than longstanding favourite Saigon Restaurant, located on buzzing Kloof Street. The large menu – predominantly Vietnamese – boasts a wide selection of dishes that extends to Japanese, Chinese and Thai foods.
For starters we opt for the magnificent duck spring rolls, which are fried to a golden crisp and have tender and tasty duck on the inside. The pan-fried Japanese lamb potstickers have a slightly crisp outside, and are filled with mildly spiced ground lamb. They’re served in fours, which are perfect for sharing. There are also vegetarian options featuring the likes of Vietnamese-style crystal spring rolls.
The mains are categorically organised by beef, pork, vegetarian, poultry, seafood and rice and noodles. The famous ginger fish lives up to the hype: it’s fresh, fragrant and flavourful. The fish is cooked perfectly with a crispy outside, is slightly sticky, and seasoned with a harmonious combination of plenty of ginger, some chilli and fish sauce. Sticky-fried rice makes for a perfect accompaniment.
Carnivores can delight in the generous portion of lamb chops, which is tender, delicious and served with a freshly grilled mielie. The vast menu also stars fragrant soups; yellow, green and red curries; baked aubergine; and a fiercely named dish called ‘angry duck’, which is apparently indicative of how hot it is.
Round off your meal with the Vietnamese coconut flan. It’s light, smooth and creamy – great for sharing (or not!).
There’s a small selection of cocktails, bubbles and a wide selection of local red and white wines.
Although it’s busy, the waitrons are attentive, friendly and well-versed on the menu.
If you’re lucky to be seated near the window, you can feast your eyes on panoramic views of Table Mountain – thanks to the restaurant’s glass façade. It strikes the perfect balance between casual and formal, and the dark wooden interiors adds warmth.
They have a separate sushi menu, which includes everything from sashimi and nigiri, to california rolls and salmon roses.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.