Saigon is Dubai’s newest Vietnamese restaurant. And you know what? After dining there twice and ordering home on a third occasion, I think it is definitely one of Dubai’s best. Located uncomfortably close to Vietnamese Foodies in Cluster D – JLT, its interior is simple yet cheerful and spotlessly clean. There’s a small outdoor dining area overlooking the JLT canal too which is lovely at this time of year.
Saigon is the labour of love of two Vietnamese friends, both of whom quit their day jobs to set the place up – Lynn, a banker turned businesswoman / restaurateur and Chef Phu of Hoi An at Shangri-La Hotel fame. Add to this dynamic duo the organisational skills of restaurant manager, Van, and you have a formidable team. And that they will need to be if they are to make any sort of headway in Cluster D, the Asian Cluster. Well, they certainly have all the credentials.
Saigon’s menu is concise yet covers all the favourites…and then some. I think my food buddies and I have already been through half the menu and we’ve loved every single dish we’ve tried – some obsessively. Stand outs in the starters section were the super fresh summer rolls, the green papaya salad, fried wanton and the grilled mini sausage-like rolls – duck, chicken and beef. Described in the menu as crispy lobster ravioli with crab meat, the fried wantons are insane – must try.
No Vietnamese restaurant would be complete without a good Pho (pronounced fuuh) and Saigon doesn’t disappoint. In fact, its beef pho (pho bo) is among the best I have had anywhere. But just when I thought things couldn’t get any better (=yummier) they bring out a bowl of Bún bò Huế, an in-your-face, spicy soup full of umami containing round, rice vermicelli rather than the flat fettuccine-like noodles in pho. For me, it was love at first slurp!
Of the non-soup mains, the one which unanimously blew us away was the sauteed beef – OMG – imagine pieces of perfectly cooked, top quality marinated beef served with a light sear on the outside and an oh so juicy inside. Damn! In the words of the great Jules Winnfield, “This Is Some Serious Gourmet $#!T”. It was so good, it totally overshadowed the sauteed prawns with ginger. If like me, you are a noodle fiend, then try the signature Phở xào hải sản, fried noodles with seafood – it’s amazing (and a meal onto itself).
Even if you only go with one item from each of my above recommendations, you will be full by now (portion sizes are generous). Don’t let that stop you from trying one of their delightful desserts though. We ended our meal with their coconut-based sorbet (mine with a heavy-handed squirt of chocolate sauce) and it wasn’t bad at all….
The entire staff of Saigon are Vietnamese (every single person). Lynn feels that it adds to the overall experience and she’s probably right because the service you get at Saigon is pure Vietnamese – warm, hospitable and infinitely accommodating. Lynn herself floats from table to table like a butterfly interacting with her guests…describing, suggesting, coaxing and if necessary, fixing. Complimenting her is Van and on occasion Chef Phu himself. And as a consequence, the service you get at Saigon is exemplary. This restaurant is a superstar in the making and well worth a detour.
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Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue.
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