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Sep 3, 2009 06:25 AM

Durham: Saigon Grill

This is a completely selfish post. If you like Vietnamese food and haven't done so already, check out Saigon Grill on Roxboro road (aka Taco Row). We like to go there for Saturday lunch and I really want them to make it!

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  1. I really, really wanted to like Saigon Grill. I went for dinner about a month ago and did not like the food at all. One note--I am vegetarian and the only dishes available were meat dishes minus the meat.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ilovefishtacos

      not to be nitpicky, but you've posted the same thing twice about the same resto. once on my post and once here. from one visit. can we assume that's your opinion and let people who are willing to try the entire menu opine about the food? otherwise, it seems like unnecessarily negative press for a place that, even for pescatarians (which your handle might lead one to believe you are), has some really great offerings. i've had two or three fish based meals there and they have all been awesome.

      1. re: ilovefishtacos

        I don't know any of this from first-hand experience but here's a vegan's take on Saigon Grill:

        This writer seems to feel adequately served.

      2. My coworkers and I are doing our part to keep the place open. We go there for lunch about once per week to get their noodle bowls.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bbqme

          And this morning's review in the N&O won't hurt matters any.

        2. ya-- my post back in April was born of the same motivation! Good stuff, Saigon Grill. Has it gotten any faster? (Not that I would be upset if it hadn't-- that lady that was doing all the cooking when I went last is GOOD).

          2 Replies
          1. re: Pigloader

            It's been fairly zippy when we've been lately, but it hasn't been full. It would almost make sense to have a somewhat smaller restaurant with one person doing all the cooking. We also get pretty basic dishes - pho and such, so it never takes too long. Thanks, ya'll - for doing your part!

            1. re: Pigloader

              We always phone in our order so as soon as we sit down the food is brought to us. Actually, I pretty much do this for all of my regular haunts. I'm surprised how few people do this.

              1. Maybe they had an off night , but I had a really disappointing meal at Saigon Grill recently. They were friendly and the food was nicely presented, but in terms of food quality and price we felt like we'd wasted our money..

                We started with the grilled pork spring rolls which arrived very slightly cold, as if they'd been made earlier in the day and had been sitting; the pork was dry and didn't really zing. Okay, it's an appetizer and that's what nuoc cham is for; the iced coffees with condensed milk were tasty enough to let it slide.

                I need to take at least some responsibility for what came next because I do know better. When faced with a large menu in an unfamiliar Vietnamese restaurant, the percentages say to go with the basics. Pho, Bun, maybe the stew, maybe not. Everything else *might* be ambrosial but until you've at least tried the standards you're rolling the dice. My partner was torn on whether to get pho or be adventurous and try the fried quail dinner. I offered the above opinion but not with much force; it was her dinner after all and all the reviews I'd read had been good. Okay, spend a little extra and see where it takes you.

                I knew what I wanted walking in and I was glad to see they offered a few roll your own spring roll options. There were the usual pork and pork meatballs, but they also had one I'd never seen before, a beef sausage rolled in pepper leaves. At $16.95 the price was more than a little steep but we were already in for more than I'd expect to spend in a similar restaurant; take another chance.

                No matter how I felt about the food, I will say our server was terrific, very attentive and friendly. He brought out the spring roll plates first, and we dug in.

                Our first observation was "Hm...a larger bowl would really be nice here" as the hot water bowl supplied was too small to hold even half a sheet of rice paper. The sausages came out on a separate plate, tiny oblongs wrapped in dark leaves, covered with a pile of fried shallots and peanuts. They were...okay, but nothing to write home about, really dense cigars of excessively overcooked hamburger, very dry and with a flavor/texture that suggested they'd been in the freezer for awhile. The noodles were starchy and somewhat overcooked. The vegetables were actually quite nice with a pile of purple and green basil, lettuce, etc, though I really missed the pickled carrots/daikon that have come every other time I've ordered this. The sausages themselves were not bad exactly, but they're not something I'd ever order again.

                The Fried Quail had really nice presentation, three(?) little split fried quail on a bed of lettuce with halved tomato slices arrayed around the plate, a big bowl of rice and a large bowl of a dark dipping sauce that tasted of star anise. The dipping sauce and the greens were both quite tasty, but the quail was dry and again, tasted like it had been the freezer too long. I wound up eating the lettuce (which had a dressing oddly enough; it was a salad unto itself) with most of the rice soaked in dipping sauce. Again, not terrible, but nothing about it made me want to rush back either.

                Total cost of the meal (spring roll, two iced coffees, fried quail, spring roll construction set) came to $55 including tip. I've certainly paid more in places that looked worse, but nothing we ate was sufficiently good to make it seem worth it. I might return for a bowl of pho if I'm around Durham, but as a destination restaurant it just didn't stack up.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Bricoleur

                  Sad to hear - but this is pretty consistent with my experience.