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Saigon Pho at Main Gate Square

January 25, 2010

Bowl of Pho from Saigon Pho

The restaurant's namesake

I was so incredibly cranky when I got to Saigon Pho last Monday.  I hadn’t eaten breakfast (yes, I know better), and my blood sugar was low enough that I was surprised I was still upright.  It wasn’t helping that I was meeting Kristine there and she was stuck in heavier-than-anticipated traffic.  Boo!  But enough of me and my messed-up mood….

Kristine encouraged me to go ahead and order when I got there so I’d be in a little happier place by the time she arrived.  I started off with an order of cold spring rolls with shrimp and sliced pork (#17 – $4.50).  By themselves, the rolls were a little on the bland side – they would have been tastier with a little cilantro or mint.  The accompanying peanut sauce, though, was great.  It was peanutty (not surprising), with a little kick of red chili and some depth from soy.  Sounds like a pretty standard peanut sauce to you?  Me too, but theirs sure was good.   I’d show you a picture of them, but I forgot to take one until I’d eaten most of them…

For my entree, I had the Saigon Chicken Curry (#43 – $5.99).  The menu described this dish as “Soup with sweet potato,

Chicken curry with rice vermicelli

Chicken curry with rice vermicelli.

coconut and red onions in a spicy curry sauce served with rice, vermicelli, or baguette”.  It was soupy, it had a spicy curry sauce, and it came with vermicelli.  The sweet potato, coconut, and red onion were noticeably absent.  It did have a whole lot of cilantro piled on top of it, though.  It was tasty enough, but would have benefited greatly from it’s missing ingredients.

Kristine arrived just as my curry did, so I dug into that while she contemplated the menu.  She decided on a bowl of pho tai (#27 – $6.99), which seemed like a pretty dang good choice (Kevin’s helpful hint: If the name of a dish is in the name of a restaurant, order it!).  The menu describes this a rare beef slices with rice noodles, sweet onions, and cilantro in a rich beef stock.  It came with the requisite heaping pile of bean sprouts, green chili slices, lime, and amazingly aromatic fresh basil.  As is often the case with pho, it was served in a bowl large enough to do double-duty as a mop bucket.  Please note that I’m not saying they use their soup bowls as mop buckets – they just have big bowls.  The pho was good: hearty and comforting, customized with the chili and basil.  Totally good stuff, yo.  By the time I’d finished all of mine and helped Kristine polish hers off, I was feeling like my old self again.

Saigon Pho also has a huge selection of bahn mi (sandwiches with mayo, carrot, radish, cuke, cilantro & jalapeno on crispy baguette).  In fact, they have 20 different versions available.  Also on the menu: lots of vegetarian items, many of which are prepared soy-based meat substitute.   So if you’ve gone veg but have a hankering for BBQ pork, Saigon Pho can hook you up without harming any animals.

If you prefer your animals cooked but find chicken, beef, and pork boring, they also have dishes prepared with buffalo, venison, boar, and frog.  A little something for everyone…

So to sum it up, I liked ’em, and I’ll be back.

What about you, dear reader?  Have you been there?  What did you think?  How do you think it compared to Miss Saigon or other Vietnamese haunts in Tucson?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Kevin

You can find Saigon Pho at 943 E University Blvd, Ste 107.  They’re open M-F 11am – 9pm and Sat & Sun 12pm – 9pm. 520-624-0999
Saigon Pho on Urbanspoon

Saigon Pho Drink Menu

Drink Menu - per Andy's request

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Stacey permalink
    January 26, 2010 10:22 am

    Hi TucsonFoodDude!
    Yesterday I tried Saigon Pho for the first time and I’d like to second your thumbs up! My colleague and I both opted to try sandwiches – he went with BBQ pork and I tried the shredded pork- and we were not disappointed. They’re quite large, the bread is fresh and tasty, and although they’re a tad skimpy on the meat, the fresh greens made up for it. I typically opt for noodle dishes at Vietnamese places but for $3.50, the sandwiches at Saigon Pho are quite a deal!

    • February 3, 2010 9:00 am

      Hi Stacey!

      So I’ve heard two good reviews for the banh mi at Saigon Pho – guess I’ll have to give them a shot, especially now that I’ve lost Asian Sandwich Deli….

      Thanks!
      Kevin

  2. may1girl permalink
    January 26, 2010 12:14 pm

    My treatise : ) on Vietnamese food in Tucson:

    I like Saigon Pho and agree that they have good pho. The banh mi are good and a cheap sandwich choice; my only complaint is that they are a bit dry compared to the real deal (i.e., Vietnam) and don’t come with chili sauce or enough pickled vegetables already on them. When they opened, they had 0 vegetarian dishes but quickly started adding them. Very smart considering the eating habits of the University.

    For pho, my preference is Pho Thu on Stone near Grant. They have the best pho in Tucson IMHO. Also, if you ever see it as a special the bun vit (duck noodle soup) is great.

    For a variation on the usual Ha Long Bay at Broadway and Wilmot is a good choice. They have some dishes that you can’t find at the typical pho and bun places. Canh chua ca (a sweet and sour fish soup) is particularly yummy.

    I want to try the new Vietnamese restaurant attached to Lee Lee market. The Phoenix branches of it got good reviews on Yelp. Also, they specialize in com tam (broken rice dishes) which you can find elsewhere but not the focus of the restaurant.

    • February 3, 2010 8:55 am

      Thanks SO much for sharing your thoughts on other Vietnamese restaurants around town! I work about a three minute walk from Miss Saigon, so that’s usually where I go when I have a hankering. It’s great to know that there are a few other options, and even what’s good at each of them.

      I used to get my banh mi right across the street at Asian Sandwich Deli, but they closed up shop a few months ago. 8(

      I’m also looking forward to the one in Lee Lee. I tend to get hungry when I’m in there, so it’ll be great to have an easy answer to that problem!

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

      Kevin

  3. February 3, 2010 7:22 pm

    Nice Review Kevin. Im going to have to try it out. I love Miss Saigon but I am also looking for alternatives, to mix it up.

    Do you know if they sell any of those flavored teas? Or did you have any of their Drinks?

    • February 3, 2010 7:38 pm

      Thanks, Andy! The comment from May1girl had some suggestions as well that I’m looking forward to trying.

      They have a huge number of drinks. I was going to list them, but decided to try taking a picture of that portion of their menu instead. If it doesn’t come out, I’ll give you a listing. I should have it up in a few minutes. I was pretty boring and had an iced tea…

      Thanks for the comment!

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