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Nov 18, 2008 08:37 PM

Berkeley: Little Saigon - $4 pho

A relative was filling in at Little Saigon on the day I stopped by. He said the place was open for years. I find it hard to believe as I never noticed it before and there is nothing out there on the web about it.

They serve Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. The chicken won ton soup is $3.50

I was starving and needed something to eat on the go. No banh mi, so I just got an egg roll and two spring rolls.

The crispy pork egg roll (65 cents) was just that ... nice crispy wrapper that shattered with a good ground pork filling. Hot from the fryer, very good.

The spring rolls - shrimp ($1) and vegetarian (65 cents) were ok, but a little skimpy on the mint and too stuffed with noodles. Then again, the regular person wasn't cooking that day.

There was some sort of dipping sauce, but this was a few weeks back and I just don't remember anything about it. I was dining and driving anyway and not dipping.

Most dishes run between $4-$5 with the most expensive dish ($5.25) the combo bun ... grilled lemongrass beef, shrimp egg roll with lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumber, noodles, peanuts and mint served with Vietnamese nuoc mam sauce

Other menu items:

Chow mein with vegetables (beef, chicken or shrimp - $4), combo ($4.50), tofu ($3.50)

Chow fun - same protein options as the chow mein, same prices

Rice plates (brown rice available) - curry chicken with veggies, ginger chicken, bbq chicken with veggies, tomato beef, mixed vegetables (with beef, chicken, pork, or shrimp), sweet and sour pork, bbq pork, fried rice (with beef, chicken, pork, or shrimp) ... all $4.50 each

Special dishes
beef or squid stir fried with pineapple, tofu and mixed veggies $4.50
shrimp stir fried with snow peas and shitake mushrooms $4.50
salmon with mixed veggies $5
white fish with mixed veggies $4.50

In addition to pho and spring rolls Vietnamese dishes include:
Hu Tien - white rice noodle soup with pork, shrimp and squid $5.25
Shrimp, beef or pork bun $4.75

Nothing fancy decor, but neat and clean. Everything served on paper plates.

The portions on other tables seemed generous. There is NO steam table. Everything is made to order.

Anyone else ever eat here?

Little Saigon
1717 University Ave Ste A, Berkeley, CA 94703

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  1. I have never stopped in - I'd like a decent VN lunch spot nearby for things other than Banh mi.

    1 Reply
    1. re: lmnopm


      Anh Hong
      2067 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

    2. I believe that up until a few months ago this spot was a Chinese restaurant that was recommended highly by someone. I tried it with my nephew and we just didn't get what he was talking about.

      Did they revamp the menu and rename? It hasn't been there for years.

      9 Replies
      1. re: chocolatetartguy

        Don't know. First time in the place. From what you are saying and the guy who was serving me said, it sounds like they renamed and maybe added Vietnamese menu. I'm guessing that the low prices and large portions might be an appeal to some. My guess is there is nothing amazing here, but you could get a decent enough meal on the cheap.

        1. re: chocolatetartguy

          It was location of the "New Oriental Restaurant" which also had a Vietnamese and Chinese menu. Never went in, but the name and the menu made me wonder if it was related to the Oriental Restaurant on the same block of Shattuck as Corso.

          Oriental Restaurant
          1782 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

          New Oriental Restaurant
          1717 University Ave, Berkeley, CA

          1. re: PorkButt

            Hmm .. maybe the Oriental Restaurant guy finally got ticked off and made them change the name. They were not owned by the same people.

          2. re: chocolatetartguy

            The high recommendation came from Eugene Park in this thread:

            It sounds like they may have just changed their name. I've been
            in probably a half dozen times since I learned of it from that review.
            Good, solid, cheap lunch. I'm almost always the only person in
            there. I've never explored the menu much, The tables always seem
            like they could stand a good washing.

            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

              Yeah, sounds the same. The won ton soup and bbq chicken sound solid. What do you usually order?

              Nice report on the restaurant by Eugene. I agree with his description about the egg rolls ... though they are using pork now ... "If you eat there, you absolutely must try the egg rolls. They use ground chicken with some cabbage and other veggies, give it a decent slug of black pepper, then roll them up in the same type of wrappers that are used in Vietnamese imperial rolls ... These aren't little measly egg rolls measuring a few inches long; these are close to double the length of the typical Chinese egg rolls you get at Chinese-American places."

              1. re: rworange

                Well, I don't know about you guys, I came on Monday night, the place looks totally different. Nice new paint, framed paintings on walls, lighting, table cloths...etc. The foods are great. They changed the menu and prices a little but still are lower than other most places in Berkeley. You should come and check it out again. I recommend the new beef noodle soup and the salmon fried rice.

                1. re:

                  What a coincidence! What do you recommend about the new beef noodle
                  soup and the salmon fried rice?

                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                    Well, they actually made beef noodle soup so the tase is more like authentic vietnamese beef noodle soup while before it didn't matter what kind of soup you ordered, chicken noodle soup was used. My friend had the salmon fried rice and he loved it. I had a few spoons and I have to agreed. They put green bean, pineapple, bean sprout, egg...etc creating this new taste, very good.

                    1. re:

                      We stopped in for take out - I had a grand cru riesling that I wanted to drink with a simple meal, at home.

                      (1) Imperial rolls - above average for what I've had in these parts. They held up in the 10 minutes from restaurant to home pretty well. There is NO chile in the dipping sauce.

                      (2) Bun with beef (lemongrass) - had a very nice flavor - I enjoyed it much..

                      (3) Sauteed garlic green bean with chicken and rice- I didn't taste it, but someone made all gone and enjoyed it.

                      Overall, I'd definitely go back. Prices are low, food is decent, close to home, and fairly easy parking in that block. Nice and clean with fresh looking decor inside. They also have lunch and dinner specials (I think $4.97 and $7, respectively.

          3. Wow, I almost skipped right past this thread. What a trip down memory lane for me! I haven't been to Little Saigon (formerly New Oriental) since I did the writeup that Chuckles linked to. Living in the Peninsula doesn't present much opportunity for me to get my imperial rolls, wonton soup & BBQ chicken over brown rice fix.

            It sounds like the same family still owns the place, if the imperial rolls are still above average per lmnopm's post. I'll have to make a point of detouring off of Hwy 80 next time I'm in the Berkeley area to confirm. Hopefully I'll have someone with me so I can add the pho to my usual order.......

            1. Ditto: we just noticed this place after several years of living in Berkeley. Signage or something must have changed. We went for lunch today, followed the recommendations of the earlier posts here and on Yelp, and had a tasty meal. Won ton soup had well-spiced, shrimp-chicken won tons, plus perfectly cooked white-meat chicken, onion slices and cilantro, and fried garlic. The only downside was the tired lettuce. Barbecue chicken on brown rice was also satisfying--savory, not too sweet and not too heavy on the lemongrass. It was actually kind of special and unique, different from any Vietnamese chicken that I've had before. Imperial rolls, as previous reviewers reported, were hot from the fryer and shatteringly crisp but without much heft inside. Next time we'd skip them and try something else. The rest of the menu looked great, especially the wok-shaken beef.

              A Jiujitsu team had filled half the tables before we arrived and overwhelmed the kitchen. The waitress warned us we'd have to wait an extra 15 minutes or so for our food. We consented, and were happy with our lunch in the end. A good find! Very reasonably priced, and definitely crafted with care.

              Little Saigon
              1717 University Ave Ste A, Berkeley, CA 94703