Le Saigonnais…Upscale Vietnamese in New Westminster
New Westminster isn’t exactly a mecca for Vietnamese food in Greater Vancouver. Until now, we’ve had only three fairly average joints to speak of. When I heard of a new one advertising “Authentic” Vietnamese cuisine, I dragged Darciberger down to Columbia St. to see if Le Saigonnais was the real deal.
Unfortunately, the previous occupants, Royal City Thai, closed their doors. They put out some decent Thai food but I guess not enough New Westers gave them a go. It’s always sad to see it happen but in this case, it made way for some pretty damn good Vietnamese.
Le Saigonnais‘ menu is chock-full of authentic Vietnamese fare…not your average joint by any means. The fact that they used Vietnamese titles in a very non-Asian area gave me great hope. Of the four Vietnamese restos here, they’re the first. Bringing authentic Asian fare to this area is always a challenge. Here’s to hoping that it’s the beginning of a trend.
Their version of Bún bò Huế was pretty solid…stacked with flavor and loaded with meat. The broth was spicy enough but it lacked the lemongrass kick. The addition of beef balls in lieu of the pork knuckle was unique. It dropped the authenticity level down a notch but didn’t detract from the bowl a whole lot. The ultra-tender beef slices, great broth and chewy round noodles made up for things quite well.
The Cánh Gà Chiên Nước Mắm (Saigon-style chicken wings) were tasty, crispy little critters. Fried to perfection and tossed in chile, garlic, scallions and Nước Mắm. A bit sweet, a little salty…good and garlicky. BTW, don’t forget to eat the greens…that’s a nice, crunchy, flavourful salad.
The Royal Platter…a plethora of tasty snack treats.
Going round the plate, first off, the Chả Giò (Vietnamese Spring Rolls).
Fairly decent, these were. The ground pork filling, again decent, was a touch on the mushy side. I found it strange that they would use the wheat wrap instead of the rice version. Turns out they offer both. If you prefer the rice wrap, order the Le Saigonnais Rolls.
Nướng Xiên (Grilled brochettes). These were stellar. A combo of pork and chicken, grilled to perfection, still juicy and completely jacked with great flavours.
The Nem nướng (Grilled pork patties) are basically Vietnamese bologna. In that I mean it’s bologna taken to the next level times two. The mix of sweet and savoury with a big hit of garlic make these outstanding. Pretty sure the dose of MSG thrown in helped things immensely. Very, very addictive. There’s a great recipe here for Nem nướng spring rolls. Gotta try making these real soon.
Chạo Tôm (Prawn Supreme on sugar cane). Here you’ve got a mix of minced pork and prawn, garlic, shallot, fish sauce, palm sugar and pepper wrapped around sugar cane. I’ve had better and I’ve had worse. These were a touch rubbery…a moment too long on the grill.
Hoành Thành Chiến (Crispy wontons)…great little packets of minced pork and prawn.
The last item on the platter was, unfortunately, on the average side.
It’s not that they were bad, but the Gỏi Cuốn (Salad Roll) was just a bit top-heavy on the noodles…they diminished the fresh prawn and Vietnamese Ham a bit. The saviour here was the dense and delicious peanut sauce. Rich, deep flavour through and through.
I usually get my Vietnamese fix at Green Bamboo and other assorted locales throughout Vancouver. It’s good to know there’s a place nearer to home that offers up a variety of interesting Vietnamese fare. Le Saigonnais is a clean, comfortable spot to experience a wide variety of Viet cuisine. Very highly recommended.