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Jan 7, 2008 05:15 AM

No longer chow-worthy: Cafe Saigon, Poughkeepsie

Made it upstate to Cafe Saigon in Poughkeepsie the other night. It is located near Vassar College, in the same neighborhood as Miss Saigon and Tokyo Express... I thought the food was simply poor. How long ago did anyone else go? I feel that, judging by the articles on the wall, that this place used to be good a few years ago but later lost any sense of quality:

First of all, the lemonade (if you can call it that) had no sweetness and no lemon flavor - just some lemon pulp floating around. The glass of water with lemon I was given beforehand was comparable in taste. The calamari salad was ok, considering it was just lettuce, squid and some dressing.

Good lemony flavor in the sour shrimp soup, although it was lukewarm and only had 1 small shrimp in it, along with a few tiny shreds of cabbage. But that's where things got worse...

The Happy Pancake, thin and crispy like an eggroll shell, consisted of 3 shrimp and a little bit of fake crab. Nothing worth ordering again.

They don't have pho anymore... the guy said one could "get a big bowl of it anywhere," and they don't have the stuff to make it, so they stopped making it "a long time ago." He suggested the Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef soup) instead. Not only did that soup come out lukewarm, but the rice noodles were underdone (way underdone, like 30-second pasta underdone), and the broth tasted like a salty bullion cube plus some curry spice, and looked like a cloudy, yellow chicken stock. The beef that was in there, all 2 tablespoons of it, seemed out of a can of beef soup: tiny morsels of dry, flaky shredded meat with no flavor. Could the soup be from out of a can? There was really nothing else in it other than (literally) a couple slices of scallions and a few onion pieces.

I was thoroughly disappointed in most of the dishes, the fact that there was no pho, basically the 'restaurant' as a whole. We were the only ones there (a couple just left) and it still took 15-20 minutes to get out the un-lemonade, soon followed by warm-ish soup and uncooked noodles. I was almost ready to get up, leave and go to Miss Saigon down the street just for some decent hot soup. I mean, how do you mess up soup and noodles?! And what's a Vietnamese place that has pho on the menu but hasn't had it since "a long time ago?"

And I'm not just being picky - I was really hungry but couldn't force myself to eat more than several bites of each. I will not go there again.

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  1. was there about a month ago. didn't experience anything as bad as you describe, but everyone has different feelings.

    i periodically get the pancake; unfortunately, as you stated, one of them (i forget which) comes with the fake crab stuff. i had the spicy beef soup, which was minimal on beef, but nice noodles and ok spices.

    the best stuff i've had, and the ones i usually go back to, are the ginger chicken and the goi cuon (imperial roll steamed).

    miss saigon has a more extensive menu and larger seating as it is in a (former) large house. they also have some other dishes like pad thai (which i haven't tried).

    (edit: i checked their menu; i ONLY get the happy pancake, not the seafood one. the seafood one has the fake crab. also, a couple ppl on a poughkeepsie journal blog site still like it...but the main person on the blog rang the praises of kismat [indian] which was some of the worst food i've ever had, search for an earlier post on it).

    1 Reply
    1. re: bob gaj

      Wow. I hope, though Miss Saigon is still great. We'll be going there on our way to ski this Friday.

    2. I remember really liking Saigon Cafe years ago, but last time I ate there (sometime last year) I was underwhelmed. The food wasn't *bad* per se, it was just kind of... "meh" and the portions were small. I don't know what the problem could be... As far as I know, it's the same people running the place. I really want to like the place because the people are nice and I have a soft spot for little hole-in-the-wall joints. I'll try it again someday.

      As for Miss Saigon down the street, I ordered some takeout (a couple of spicy vegetable dishes) from there last night and it was quite good.