HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >

Discussion

Anyone tried Sao Mai on 1st Avenue?

Sao Mai, a Vietnamese restaurant, just opened on 1st Avenue between 12/13th Street. Has anyone tried it? It looks promising. The quality of Vietnamese food in NYC has never been great, it would be wonderful to have a good place close by.

-----
Sao Mai
203 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I just heard about Sao Mai - it's the former chef of Xe Lua, one of the more decent Vietnamese places in Chinatown. They had solid pho, and an excellent chilled shrimp & grapefruit salad. Sounds like he's kept about half the menu, and is just doing it with more organic / local ingredients as to better fit the current EV zeitgeist...

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to checking it out. Heck, might do it tonight...

    -----
    Xe Lua
    86 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013

    Sao Mai
    203 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

    3 Replies
    1. re: sgordon

      Are their meat organic/local? If so, it would actually be worth a trip downtown for us as my husband could actually have a bowl of pho with all the good stuff in it.

      1. re: uwsister

        Do you know of any inexpensive Asian restaurants in the city that use local/organic meat?

        1. re: erica

          Depends on what you define as "inexpensive" - truly inexpensive Asian places, no, but there are a few places where they use local and/or organic meat, i.e. Totto Ramen, Souen, Hung Ry, etc.

    2. ...and here's a bit from the Times today, with the current (soon to expand) menu:

      http://eastvillage.thelocal.nytimes.c...

      2 Replies
      1. re: sgordon

        That looks promising. I don't normally trust giant menus, even seeing pho + banh mi + expansive Vietnamese menu made me wonder, but I dropped in last night and it looked pleasant. (I had already eaten.) Nice that they've already got a good record.

        1. re: sgordon

          sounds good, and i like the location

        2. Thanks for posting. We really like Xe Lua, so we will have to try this new spot.

          1. Tried it the other night - it's good! We got a bowl of pho, (delicious if not too remarkable) a pork chop on rice (a bargain at $7.50 and a great example of this affordable staple - thin but unusually tender, and well seasoned) and and a banh mi (good hot bread, traditional filling. It didn't come with fresh chilis, but when I requested some they brought me some real incendiary killers - not the usual bland jalapenos). Next time I will not play it so safe in my ordering since everything was excellent. The staff was very nice, attentive, and professional. Sao Mai is a real asset to the neighborhood and I wish them well.

            -----
            Sao Mai
            203 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

            5 Replies
            1. re: hungrycomposer

              Are the banh mi available all day? I thought I'd read only until 5...

              1. re: lucyj

                Banh mi are only available until they run out of bread. Tonight I arrived at 8:30 and there was no more bread. Their chef's specialty is a pho banh mi, which I look forward to trying.
                Tonight we tried the beef and watercress salad which was delicious. Much more watercress than beef, but very good. We didn't eat the out of season tomatoes, though. Also got Chinese broccolli, which was good but not terribly different from what I might make at home.
                So happy to have this restaurant in the neighborhood!

                1. re: hungrycomposer

                  Had the banh mi pho tonight, which I'd seen mentioned here and the hostess encouraged me to order. (I was there around 7 and they were still serving them, restaurant was almost completely empty). Not exactly a traditional banh mi (or unlike any I've had) and not cheap by banh mi standards ($7.63) but absolutely delicious. Messy, saucy, I think it was beef, I was told it had noodles in it, (it was described as all the ingredients of pho in a sandwich) other than that though I don't really know how to describe it. But I recommend trying it and there other options if this was representative.

                  1. re: lucyj

                    I also tried the pho banh mi. It's kind of like a Vietnamese French dip sandwich. Tasty and different. It also has bean sprouts. I was there for dinner of Sunday night and I'm happy to say it was crowded.

                    1. re: hungrycomposer

                      Just a quick mention of a dinner here on Christmas Eve. I wanted to like this much more than I did because the staff were really sweet. The "pho banh mi" was worth traveling for. Great flavor and textural contrasts. Unfortunately, the actual pho did not impress me at all due to the weak broth that had little or no beef taste.

                      The banh cuon (rice crepes) were quite good. We also liked the fried calamari (muc chien dzon). But three of us agreed that the fried red snapper, although very well fried, was virtually flavorless. Perhaps this is what farm-raised snapper tastes like. Or perhaps the fish had been frozen..

                      I do wish them well and they do seem to be doing ok, as all tables became filled by 7pm or so.

            2. For Vietnamese, at present, I go to Cong Ly (124 Hester St (between Bowery & Chrystie St), New York, NY 10002). It might not be a nicely decorated modern or classic interior with low lighting for those dining evenings out, but its food is really good, closest I have found to Vienamese food in Vietnam.

              Cong Ly: http://cheapassfood.com/eats/show/230...

              http://www.roboppy.net/food/2009/11/c...

              Google image this "Cong Ly hester street vietnamese" and you will see all there so good food.

              I will check out Sao Mai though, thanks.

              -----
              Cong Ly
              124 Hester St, New York, NY 10002