Review: A Taste of Saigon – Yellowknife, NWT
Date of Visit: October 2, 2015
This Vietnamese restaurant, one of two in Yellowknife, appears to be quite a popular place. I arrived at about 1 pm, towards the end of the lunch rush (or so I thought), but every table was full and there was still a line-up inside the door. I left, returning about 45 minutes later, and was very glad I did come back as I enjoyed an excellent meal…
Ambience and Service
The place is quite large and seats about 100 or so. The decoration is understated, with just artificial bamboo and palm trees, along with some prints on the walls, and it is very roomy. Indeed, the space is a little underutilized to the point of being a bit cold, and a reorganization into a series of separate, intimate dining areas, would improve the ambience without making it overly crowded.
The crowd was thinning out when I arrived for the second time but it was still quite busy. The staff, however, seemed to be managing very ably and the waiter who served me was very prompt, friendly and efficient. He was very familiar with all the items on the menu and had no difficulty in grasping that I wished to order a succession of small plates rather than having everything all at once. I was a little disappointed to discover that no beer or wine was available but I gather that a liquor license is pending.
The menu is pretty extensive, with 11 appetizers, 9 different soups (including 7 varieties of Pho) and a good selection of noodle and rice combinations. The table condiments were soy, hoisin sauce and both Sriracha and Sambal Oelek for chili enthusiasts. Surprisingly, there was no plain Fish Sauce, or even the standard ‘Nuoc Cham’ provided, and neither of these featured in any of the dishes I ordered. It is possible the management are afraid the fishy condiments wouldn’t suit western palates but the other Vietnamese place in town doesn’t seem shy about using either of them.
Shrimp Stuffed Boneless Chicken Wings – This consisted of 4 boneless wings (minus the ‘drumstick’ portion), stuffed with a shrimp filling and deep-fried in a panko style breading. The shrimp were coarsely chopped, rather than a fine paste (as I expected), and both the taste and texture of the filling was excellent. Personally, I would have preferred a light flour coating rather than breadcrumbs, and a little ginger would have been very nice, but otherwise this was excellent and I gave the dish a 4 out of 5.
Pork Dumplings – These were fairly typical pork dumplings, on the whole. The filling, being a simple pork and scallion blend, was tasty enough, and it went well with the dipping sauce of soy, vinegar and sugar (after I added some chili sauce to spice it up a bit). The wrappers were just a bit too thick and doughy for a deep-fried dumpling but I have had far worse in my time. I enjoyed these enough to rate them at a respectable 3 out of 5.
Beef Satay Skewers – The beef here was nicely sweet and generally tender, if just a bit dry in a few spots. I fancied I could taste a hint of lemongrass in a couple of bites but no other particular flavoring came to mind and I found that just a dash of soy at the table went very nicely. I like the crushed peanut coating both for the flavor and texture and I gave the dish a solid 3 out of 5.
Fresh Salad Roll (Goi Cuon) – This consisted of the standard rice paper rolls stuffed with shrimp, chicken, vermicelli and salad greens. Thee were served with peanut sauce, which wasn’t bad, but I would have preferred the more common fish sauce based dip as an accompaniment. The rolls were nicely formed but I thought they included just a bit too much vermicelli. I rated them at a 3 out of 5.
The service here was excellent and I enjoyed some very nice dishes in a pleasant atmosphere. I will definitely return on future visits to Yellowknife. Rating: 3.5 out of 5.