Saigon Grill (2929 N. Roxboro St.) is very hot right now. We were looking forward to its opening after driving by for weeks, and we’ve since heard about it from multiple sources (emails, friends, chowhound). We’re glad that a new local restaurant has inspired so much love! This buzz may have been kicked off by an email on the Duke Park neighborhood email list–we definitely saw a lot of familiar faces there.
So we eagerly stopped by on one of its first days open. It was packed, very possibly to the owners’ surprise, and as others have pointed out, the service was a bit slow. I didn’t mind that though–the servers were clearly working their butts off (I don’t think I saw one who was walking instead of running from the kitchen to the dining area) and were extremely friendly despite their rush.
We started off with a traditional Vietnamese crepe, which was not bad, but not memorable.
Next was the Tho Xoa Lan, rabbit with curry and coconut sauce. The curry sauce was nice and sweet, but be warned that the dish was pretty difficult to eat because all of the chunks of meat included bone. We understand the concept of cooking with the bones in (and the meat was good, for sure) but you should probably be prepared to get your hands extremely messy, or go hungry, if you order this dish. I also would have preferred a bit more of a kick to the sauce.
Our other entree was from specials board–a big bowl of vermicelli and duck. Unfortunately it smelled fairly unappetizing–never having had anything like it, we didn’t know whether this was because something was done poorly or whether it just wasn’t our style. Despite the fact that I’ll eat almost anything, perhaps the duck dish just wasn’t right for my palate? Either way, it kind of marred the meal for both of us.
So we decided we had to go back to give them another chance. The second time, we went just before the lunch rush–the restaurant was nearly empty and the service was fine (super friendly, again). This time, we decided to stick with foods we knew we liked.
We started off with spring rolls (with grilled pork), which we thought were just ok…a bit bland, even dipped in the sauce they came with, but helped out with the addition of some healthy dollops of hoisin.
Then we got Pho (pho tai, with eye round steak). I’ve never had a pho I didn’t like, and this was no exception, but it was also not one of my favorites. I kept piling on chiles and hot sauce, only to decide in the end that what was seriously missing was some salt. I think that 9N9 will remain my go-to pho spot in the Triangle.
I liked the Banh Mi Bo Kho better. The baguettes were soft, warm and crusty, and the beef chunks were tender, making for a comforting dish.
The menu also included a long list of interesting drinks (nonalchoholic) and I loved both of the ones I tried (dried longan, and sweet red bean).
Although our second trip was better than the first, a consistent theme was that the dishes lacked any of the flavor and richness that I love in Vietnamese food. So, while we’re glad this friendly place is getting so much buzz, when we’re in the area we’ll probably stick with Super Taqueria across the street for now. What have people had at Saigon that they loved? Maybe things are still spotty what with their recent opening–report back in the comments to give us your take!