Among the many cultural benefits immigrants bring to the city is their entrepreneurship; many have restaurants featuring native cuisine. Tucked away in a large strip mall on the northwest quadrant of 21st and Garnett is Saigon Palace, a restaurant known for its Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian and Taiwanese dishes.
As my friend and I walked into the restaurant, we were immediately greeted by a smiling hostess who allowed us to select our table. The atmosphere is simple with Asian décor scattered throughout.
A large dining room is divided in half with a portion that's perfect for larger parties. The cutlery is already on the tables in a stainless steel container. A main part of the dining room has a full view of a large flat-screen television.
With our attention turned to the food, we found that a numbering system makes it easy to order from this five-page menu.
Sections include Appetizers, ranging in price from $1.75 for Egg Drop Soup and Hot and Sour Soup to $7.95 for the Saigon Special Seafood Soup. Other commonly ordered appetizers include Vietnamese Egg Rolls and Spring Rolls, Chinese Egg Rolls and Fried Dumplings.
On the main menu, categories include Family Dinner Soup, Pho Beef Noodle Soup, Seafood Clear Noodle Soup; Pan Sprit fried Egg Noodle, Flat Noodle Dish, Salad Bow/Vermicelli, Roasted Dish, Port Chop Dish, steam Rice Dish, Fried Rice, Fish Dish, Hmong, Lao, and Thai Food, Lobster Dish, Roast Dish, Stir Fried Dish, Seafood Stir Fried Dish, Fire Pot and Dessert. Most dishes are under $10; the lobster dishes are the most expensive, all at $21.95.
Our server took our drink order--French Milk Coffee ($2) for me and a Heineken ($2.75) for my friend. To begin, we ordered Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Hot and Sour Soup and Egg Drop Soup.
The Spring Rolls were very good: served cold with rice paper tightly wrapped around fresh veggies that included lettuce and carrots as well as shrimp, clear noodles and pork. A rich peanut sauce was served with these rolls, which added a nice touch.
We also had a bowl of soup, each $1.75: I had the Sweet and Sour while my friend tried the Egg Drop. The latter was rather dense, almost like gently scrambled eggs. There were coarse black pepper flakes throughout, giving it a little kick in each spoonful. My friend really enjoyed this thick version of a very popular and traditional soup.
My soup was decent but not as good as my friend's. It was hot (with chili peppers, as it should be) and contained bean curd, mushrooms and thin carrot strips.
For the main course, I ordered Pan Stir Fried Egg Noodles with Chicken ($7.50); my friend ordered from the Roast Dish section of the menu, the Clam Stir Fried ($12.95). A few minutes after our order was taken to the kitchen, our server informed us that clams were not available, so she offered a viable substitute, mussels.
I rarely rush when dining, but the service was unusually slow.
When our entrees did arrive, though, the extended wait was worth it.
The mussels were excellent. A plentiful number of bite-sized tidbits were carefully prepared--tender, tasty and spicy (as my friend requested). The mussels were in an oyster sauce which was rich, sweet and sour; there were large pieces of sliced ginger in the sauce, giving it a fresh taste as well as that unmistakable zest for which ginger is known. This dish was served with white rice.
My Pan Fried Noodles had a nice balance of texture and flavor with carrots, whole mushrooms, Napa cabbage, snow peas, water chestnuts, miniature pickled corn and a light soy-based sauce.
The service was fair. Our waitress was friendly and welcoming, but she was overworked, tending to the entire restaurant with only one other person. Food was slow in getting to our table, but once there, we thoroughly enjoyed it.
I would return for the many other dishes I would like to sample. The number of selections was staggering. The five-page menu could leave guests' heads spinning with indecisiveness, mine included.
Saigon Palace Asian Cuisine
1938 S. Garnett Road
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