Santa Fe Vietnamese Roundup: Lan’s and Saigon Café
Had the opportunity in the past couple of weeks to visit both of Santa Fe’s Vietnamese restaurants, Lan’s and Saigon Café:
Lan’s – inauspicious location buried in the corner of a Cerrillos strip mall, but they’ve done a nice job with the interior, lining the walls with large-scale photos of Vietnam. Pretty good, fresh flavors in the chow, from the spring rolls to the noodle dishes to the other entrees, perhaps a tad bland, but far from bad. My big complaint was the “cheap factor”: there was some fairly blatant cost-cutting going on here, notably the conspicuously small portions (I usually complain that portions are too *big*, but this was ridiculous), and the use of filler ingredients (I have never, ever seen so many bean sprouts in a dish in my life). Service was a little uneven, with one waiter having trouble keeping up with the 2/3 full restaurant.
Saigon Café – also in a strip mall, a little more in-town on Cordova. The portions here were much more generous across the board. The chow was a little more “polarized”, with some pretty good dishes and some fairly meh. Highlights: very good spring rolls, tasty steamed pork buns, great flavor to the beef and fish ball pho. Lowlights: the very greasy stir fries just tasted like amateur hour.
So in short, peaks and valleys at both, and I can’t say either is setting the world on fire, but I think I’ll be spending more time and dollars at Saigon Café.
Well how about that, turns out there are one and a half other Vietnamese restaurants in town:
Xiclo - next door to La Montanita Coop. Menu is short for a Vietnamese restaurant, about 25 items total. Although it isn't as good as some of the excellent places in ABQ, this is easily the best Vietnamese I've found in Santa Fe. The spring rolls were made to order, nicely sized, and delicious. The "cold salad" dishes (vermicelli, veggies, and meat) were exactly what we'd hoped for, full of fresh flavors and reasonably healthy-tasting. And the special of fried tofu and vegetables with curry sauce was subtle, exotic, and a pleasant departure from the usual. Remarkably inexpensive for Santa Fe; not a single menu item north of $10. Can't wait to get back, Xiclo is a winner all around.
Counter Culture - indy coffeehouse just off Cerrillos, a few miles out of downtown. The items in question are probably more Thai than Vietnamese, but regardless, they offer tasty vegetarian spring rolls and cold spicy noodles. The sauce for the cold noodles is a little gloppy for my taste, but still not half bad, and the sauces for both dishes bring some legitimate heat. I feel like outside of Mexican food, Santa Fe is a little limited in lunch options, but Counter Culture is doing its part to change this. I'm still mildly irritated that their coffee and tea are kind of mediocre, but glad the chow is good.
930 Baca St, Santa Fe, NM 87505