Le Petit Saigon
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Bảo Châu, a Vietnamese restaurant and self-described “Spring Roll Specialty House” on East Hastings. It quickly became my “go-to” place on Saturday afternoons before going to work. Recently, in the interest of a head-to-head comparison, I made a couple of visits to a neighboring restaurant, Le Petit Saigon.
After perusing their quite extensive menu, I decided to see how their Bún bò Huế stacked up to Bảo Châu’s.
As with Bảo Châu’s version, this is an extremely good bowl. The only difference is that here at Le Petit Saigon, it includes the requisite pig knuckle and cubes of congealed blood. To the purist, this would be a big deal (obligatory items are what gives authenticity). To me, a semi-purist, if it tastes this damn good, I’m a happy camper!
Here you have your typical phở accompaniment plate. Alongside the usual basil, lime, chili and bean sprouts, is a rarity in these parts. The slender, serrated veg in the foreground are Sawtooth Herb (Ngò Gai). This leaf has a cilantro-like taste and is, apparently, very good for stimulating appetite and helping digestion.
A hefty slathering of hoisin and sriracha made an exceptional bowl stellar.
A very pleasant and welcome bonus was the Iced Jasmine Tea. A perfect accompaniment on this sweltering summer afternoon.
Another comparison that is probably much more relevant, is the Chả Giò (Vietnamese spring rolls). It’s sometimes difficult to judge and compare spring rolls from restaurant to restaurant. One day you may get fresh, hot Chả Giò straight outta the fryer…another day they’ve been sitting around waiting for customers. Today, my timing was excellent. Super-crunchy rice paper wraps surrounding minced pork, shredded carrot and wood-ear mushroom, shallot and cellophane noodles dipped in a deliciously salty, sour, sweet and garlicky Nước Mắm. Click here for all you’ll ever need to know about this incredible dish.
If I had to pick, I’d go with Le Petit Saigon’s. They’re both great rolls…it’s just that Le Petit’s are more consistent.
Lastly, I had to try a vermicelli bowl (Bún). If anything, this is a tremendous value. Initially, I had asked for #48 Bún Thịt Nướng, Nem Nướng
(Grilled Beef, BBQ Minced Pork over Vermicelli) and one spring roll. The exceptionally helpful server suggested I get #54 Bún Thịt Nướng, Chả Giò, Nem Nướng (Grilled Beef, Spring Roll, BBQ Minced Pork over Vermicelli). I know that’s all a bit confusing, but it boiled down to getting an extra spring roll for 50 cents. That’s a deal I couldn’t pass up!!
Compared to Bảo Châu’s version, this one is better price-wise. The big difference for me is the plating. Bảo Châu doesn’t make you deal with skewers…just a load of charbroiled, piled up meat. Le Petit Saigon gives you a nice whack of roasted peanuts…something that was weirdly missing at Bảo Châu.
All in all, these comparisons don’t mean jack. They are both great places to get fantastic Vietnamese fare. If you like extraordinary food at bargain prices, I highly recommend both spots.