A taste of the East
By Justine Rodrigues
Trends come and go. Clothing, music, hot spots around town, travel destinations and even food all have moments of frenzy, where one particular style, genre, place or flavour is all the rage. Some trends however, last longer than others, and eventually make their way into the normalcy of everyday life. Vietnamese cuisine stands as a prime example of food that has planted concrete roots in the hearts of Calgarian’s.
So where can you go if Pho and spring rolls are what you are craving while you’re on or around campus? Ease those hungry minds and look no further, for The Reflector suggests three great Vietnamese restaurants that are close to campus, and affordable too.
1. Saigon Palace: 460 – 5255 Richmond Rd. SW (403) 246 – 0951
Saigon Palace is tucked away on the corner of Richmond Road, and is one of the southwest’s best-kept secrets. They offer 26 variations of Pho soup among other menu items. Their soup comes in either medium or large, and ranges from $6.25 to $8.75 per bowl, depending on what you order.
Satay Beef Noodle Soup + spring rolls:
This soup consists of a brown beef broth speckled with green onions, yellow onions, semi-rare beef strips, egg noodles and hints of chili pepper. The spring rolls at Saigon Palace are made of rice vermicelli, slices of pork, and carrots, all wrapped in a crispy shell.
The satay beef noodle soup came out nice and hot, most probably to cook the strips of beef.
As for the spring rolls, there were four on a plate, complete with a lettuce leaf for garnish. The highlight of this meal was the ability to add different sauces, specifically fish oil. It really accentuated the already present, but somewhat dormant flavours that graced both the soup and spring rolls.
Cost: $ 13.86 + Tip
2. Nho Saigon: 2111 – 33 Avenue SW (403) 246 – 1388
Nho Saigon is located in Marda Loop next to Casablanca Video. They are a family-run business with a full menu that serves 17 variations of soup. Their portions come in a one-size-feeds-all and range from $6.25 for a Wonton and Veggie Soup to $8.75 for the House Special. Nho Saigon had exceptionally fast service and is a nice place to grab a quick lunch with friends.
House Special + spring rolls:
The House Special contains beef balls, medium-rare and well-done beef strips, green onions and bean sprouts in rice noodle soup. The broth was an orange colour, spicy, and a bit thicker in consistency than most Viet soups, but was appetizing nonetheless. Nho Saigon had the most beef of all three restaurants, making it perfect for meat-lovers around town.
The spring rolls were longer and notably contained more meat than any spring roll I have personally tried. They were also unique in that they tasted sweet. The spring rolls were served four in an order and came out modestly crispy, and were softer towards the middle.
Nho Saigon came complete with exceptional service, the water glasses were never below half-full and this restaurant is unique in that they use order cards instead of dealing with the server directly.
Cost: $13.70 + Tip
3. Zen Vietnamese Grill:
What better place to review, than MRU’s very own Zen Grill located conveniently on campus. This venue was the cheapest and smallest of all three. They offer four basic variations of soup, and would be ideal for those craving something warm between classes.
Sate Beef Soup + spring roll:
The beef soup was notably spicy and after consuming a half-order, I find myself completely full. The soup was served piping hot and tasted of beef broth, chili pepper, green onion and bean sprouts. The soup also had strong hints of parsley. This dish included beef balls but the meat was less tender and cut into thicker strips than the other two restaurants. The nice thing about Zen is that you didn’t have to add any additional sauces, the broth tasted just right.
The spring rolls were smaller and shorter than most and had less meat, vermicelli and carrot than the previous two restaurants. The spring rolls came out two per order and were served with a side order of fish oil.
For those who prefer not to eat meat, have no fear; all three places have a vegetarian section on the menu with delicious no-meat alternatives.
Overall, for those on a budget, the best bang for your buck would be Zen Grill. If it’s soup you’re after, try Nho Saigon, and if spring rolls are your fancy Saigon Palace is the place to be.
So there you have it, the good and the bad, all wrapped into one roll – or article, however you want to digest it.