Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 08:59AM
*Post by Angela.
Last night, Mark and I were just looking for a place for a quick, cheap dinner (we had been planning to go to Busboys & Poets, but found ourselves too cold and too lazy to venture that far) - and found it at Saigon Bistro, at 2153 P Street, just off Dupont Circle. The eatery was clean and bright, the service was fast and efficient, and we had a solid, inexpensive meal in under 45 minutes. I would definitely go back in the future for a hassle-free, satisfying meal.
The restaurant started out on a good foot by offering both San Miguel beer (a product of the Philippines) on the drink menu and a huge bottle of sriracha sauce at every table. I'm not being biased here (at least not too biased) - I really like it. The beer, that is. I LOVE sriracha and sometimes put it on things it has no business being paired with. Anyway, San Miguel has a slight honey undertone to it that I enjoy.
We got an order of the Golden Fried Wontons to start. While they were nothing special, the appetizer was completely competent, not overly greasy.
Golden Fried Wontons
We also got an order of Spring Rolls, with ground pork and mixed vegetables. Again, nothing outstanding, but the filling was nicely seasoned, and more importantly, the rolls were served directly out of the fryer so they were piping hot (there are not many things worse than getting lukewarm fried food). Both appetizers came with a great dipping sauce (nuoc cham) that was sweet, spicy and a little vinegary, and which served as a great complement to the fried dishes.
For my entree, I had been really craving Phở, so I immediately zeroed in on the Special Beef Noodle Soup (Phở Đặc Biệt) with well-done brisket, rare beef and tripe, which came with a side of bean sprouts, sliced peppers, and a slice of lime. Don't be put off by the redness of the beef in the picture - it was so thinly sliced that the heat from the broth cooked it through after about 2 or 3 minutes. I thought it was pretty good - the meat was decent quality and flavorful. I would have preferred that the broth be a little more heavily seasoned (specifically, it could have used a heavier hand with the salt and a lot more heat), although the taste and aroma of the anise and cinnamon really came through. The dish's shortcomings were easily corrected by a generous squirt (or two...or five) of sriracha.
Special Beef Noodle Soup (Phở Đặc Biệt)
Mark got the beef broccoli (Bò Xào Bông Cải Xanh), which he liked a lot. The sauce was really rich and tangy, with a sweetness that he really enjoyed. His only complaint is that the rice had clearly been sitting around in the kitchen for awhile - I didn't have any, but could see that it was pretty dried out.
Beef broccoli (Bò Xào Bông Cải Xanh)
We walked out of the restaurant having paid just $45 (including two beers and tip!), satiated and ready to do some work. Make no mistake - Saigon Bistro is not fine dining. But it's not trying to be. Instead, it does what it does well - serves good, cheap Vietnamese food, bistro-style. Like I said, I can definitely see myself hitting this place again for a quick dinner, especially on a cold night.