I’m going to preface this review with the fact that I will always be a meat and potatoes girl over a soup and noodle girl. I have definitely enjoyed Korean, Japanese and Chinese food, and my experience at Saigon Noodles was great, but it would never be my first choice over a good brew pub or a great cafe. With that being said, I really did enjoy my lunch.
Saigon Noodles is at the end of a rundown strip mall on Odana Road, but the inside is surprisingly nice. It is bright with muted colors and a lot of tables. We had to wait a little bit, but they turned tables over really fast and our food came out even faster. I have only been to one other Vietnamese restaurant and I got Thai tea. I loved the unique earthy flavor and sweetness, so I decided to try it at Saigon. Their version was just as orange as I remember, but the sweetness was more muted, which I preferred. I’m not sure why it is called Thai tea at a Vietnamese restaurant, but it is a great little orange concoction that I definitely suggest trying!
For starters we tried their spring rolls and their egg rolls. After we ordered those we were ordering a bowl of Pho to split and asked that it not come with cilantro on top, and the waitress very kindly told us the spring rolls come with cilantro in them and offered to put in a new order to be made without cilantro. That was extremely thoughtful of her because we really don’t like cilantro.
The spring rolls were what you would expect. They were made with the sticky clear wrap, carrots, cabbage and had pieces of beef and shrimp in it. I’m not the biggest fan of spring rolls, but figured I would give them a chance. They were nice and fresh, and the beef had a good flavor. It came with a thick spicy peanut sauce that neither of us were too keen on. I don’t love peanut sauces in general. I usually prefer more savory sauces for my spring rolls. The house sauce that was in a squeeze bottle on our table was much better than the peanut sauce. It was salty, savory and thick enough for dipping. The egg rolls were much better than the spring rolls. They had a good crunch and the mixture inside was perfectly steamed and seasoned. The egg rolls also come with a decent side of pickled veggies on the side. The carrots, cucumbers, white carrots and cabbage all had a light pickle and still had a good crunch. Out of the two, I would choose the egg rolls over the spring rolls, and both were great with the house sauce.
My mom and I ordered a small bowl of Pho and split it. I’m super glad we went with the smaller bowl because it was huge, definitely enough for two. We got the regular bowl with beef tenderloin, and the beef was perfectly tender and there was a lot of it. An order of Pho comes with a plate of add-ins including crunchy bean sprouts, jalapenos, onions, limes and we opted out of the cilantro. We threw the bean sprouts, jalapenos and onions right in and squirted both limes all over. The bean sprouts and onions added a great crunch and freshness to the heavy broth. The jalapenos added a good spice, but you definitely have to be careful to not get two slices in one bite! The limes added a great acidity in the beginning but the juice was overpowered by the broth after a little bit. There were a ton of perfectly cooked noodles, and the broth was heavy and flavorful, but not too salty. Overall we were very happy with our large bowl of Pho.
FOOD NOTES: Vietnamese food is not my go-to choice for dining out, but if that’s the type of food I want or I want to take someone out for Vietnamese food Saigon Noodles would be a good choice on the west side. I preferred the Vietnamese dishes I got at Ha Long Bay on Willy Street, they seemed more flavorful and maybe a bit more authentic. The spring rolls were nothing new, but the egg rolls were better than expected. The Pho had a great flavor and the add-ins complimented the heavy broth. The service was good, and the dining room was nicer than expected. If you’re looking for quality Vietnamese food on the west side Saigon Noodles won’t disappoint.
Hehe. “Saigon Noodles Thai Tea” is the first problem. Some Asian restaurants attempt to provide fusion food, with not so good results. The thick an spicy peanut sauce doesn’t seem like an authentic dipping sauce for Vietnamese spring rolls (we call ‘egg rolls’ spring rolls in New Zealand), either deep fried or fresh. They should come with nuoc mam, or a variation of this. You were also missing a lot of salad greens and herbs with your pho. Shame! I hope you find authentic Vietnamese next time on your foodie adventures.
Thanks for the comments! If you’re from the Madison area, do you have a suggestion for finding authentic Vietnamese?
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