Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Eating in Salem - Saigon Restaurant

It's been a damn long time since I've posted here, but I need to keep a record of places to eat in Salem so here we go.

Banh mi. This is a delicious food. I love to put it in my mouth. For those of you who don't know what banh mi is, it is the food of the Gods. Or a Vietnamese style sub sandwich on a wheat and rice flour baguette. You know, same thing. A good bahn mi sandwich has mayo, pork pate, cilantro, pickled carrots, daikon, jalapeƱos and some sort of delicious meat (I like Vietnamese style BBQ pork). These bitches are straight up baller, and I could totally eat like 3 in a sitting.

But two days before I started my new job in Salem, I learned that a banh mi shop had opened in Hillsboro near my old office. I ate the delicious sandwich in dismay, knowing that I would never again consume a sandwich at that shop. To the best of my knowledge, Salem does not have a Vietnamese population to speak of. I thought I would never again enjoy a banh mi sandwich at lunch. To my surprise (and joy!), I quickly found a restaurant in Salem that serves banh mi - Saigon Restuarant at Court and High - and once I had my new, larger paycheck in hand, I decided to give them a test run.

I rolled in around 11:40 and quickly ordered a banh mi #1 which, as I recall, was a triple meat sandwich (chicken, BBQ pork and lean pork) and a Vietnamese Iced Coffee. For defs, I needs me a coffee to keep going all afternoon. Anyway, the owners were THRILLED that I was a new customer brought in by their abundant banh mi signage. They just about shat a brick to bring me my sandwich - so much so that I had to yell my drink order to the wife as she rushed off to the kitchen. I'm guessing the addition of banh mi is fairly new and they're looking to bring in the sandwich crowd. My sandwich came out about 15 minutes later - I would only be slightly surprised if I learned that they had to run out and pick up the baguette because everyone else who came in the whole time I was there got the rather nasty looking buffet - as did my iced coffee.

The sandwich: The baguette, while not the traditional Vietnamese style using a mix of rice and wheat flour to achieve a light and fluffy interior while maintaining a crisp exterior, was 6 - 8" in length and still pretty freakin' awesome. Banh mi sandwiches are not, as you can see from the picture above, stuffed like your American style sub sandwich; I wouldn't say that Saigon Restuarant's banh mi had much more filling, but I have had thinner sandwiches. The pate and mayo were quite nice, and the meat was obviously made with care. Next time I think I'll tell them to lay off on the soy sauce though, as it did make the sandwich saltier than I'd prefer.

The iced coffee: I was definitely skeptical when the pint glass was sat down in front of me. It was at least a half inch from full, and the glass was at least half full of ice when it was filled. Long story short, there wasn't a lot of drink in that glass. Also, there was a spoon and no straw. All of this was a damn shame because the iced coffee was AMAZING and I would have liked to have had more (also to not have been smacked in the teeth by a half pint of ice every time I took a sip). Less ice, more coffee, add a straw and it'll be perfect.

The price: OK, this is where I'm gonna be a bit picky. Yes, most of their banh mi are $3.75 and I made the choice to go with the more expensive "deluxe" sandwich (I wanted the deluxe treatment for my first try). However, you can get two sandwiches for $5 like everywhere in Portland, so to pay $5 for one banh mi was a little sad. I don't really expect a restaurant, with overhead and whatnot, to match Portland food cart prices, but as previously mentioned banh mi are slight sandwiches so I feel like there's a little more they could do to make the price right. How about some fruit with the sandwich? Some orange slices or grapes or mango or something would have made a world of difference. Some pickled veggies would have worked too, if you're looking for authentic. If that little bit of extra food is going to make or break the budget, what about including a soft drink in the price? If I weren't also paying for a drink, I may have ordered a small side or dessert. Shit, even a small bowl of broth would have been welcome. It's already right there at the buffet.

Overall, the food was good and it didn't rape my wallet too hard. Next time I'll go with a less expensive sandwich, leave off the soy, and demand a straw.

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