Old Saigon Vietnamese-January 6, 2012

Have you ever eaten at Old Saigon Vietnamese restaurant? Were you even aware that there was a Vietnamese restaurant in Red Bank? If you said no, you’re probably part of the majority. Old Saigon is at the corner of Dayton Boulevard and Martin Road….it’s at a traffic light, in a building that used to be Esquire Cleaners. We had actually eaten at Old Saigon once before, several years ago, when it was in the Rush complex in Hixson. Oh, you didn’t know that there used to be a Vietnamese restaurant there? I didn’t think so. In fact, it was so, um, well-hidden that we ate there once and even though we really liked it, we never went back. Yesterday we were out looking for somewhere to eat, somewhere to blog about, and we passed Old Saigon…then promptly turned around and went back.

There was no one else in the restaurant when we went in at about 3:10 on a Saturday afternoon. Granted, that’s not really a busy time anywhere, but that was one tip that this is one of Chattanooga’s best-kept secrets. Anyway, we walked in and were quickly greeted by one of the owners, one of the sweetest and most friendly people I have encountered dining in a restaurant. The restaurant is clean and very simply decorated, unlike many local Asian restaurants that almost seem too ornately decorated, like they’re trying too hard. We ordered potstickers and water while we perused the menu. It took me forever to decide what I wanted to order. I started to order sesame chicken, but I kind of had a feeling that sesame chicken is not really a traditional Vietnamese dish, so instead I ordered bánh xèo, described as “a special crispy pancake filled with chicken, shrimp, cabbage, carrot, broccoli, and bean sprouts”. I wanted to order pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup, but I was pretty hungry and a little concerned that it may not be filling enough…Philip decide to have mi xao, described as “shrimp, chicken, beef, and steamed vegetables in a special sauce served on a bed of crispy fried egg noodles”.

The potstickers arrived very quickly. As you can see below, they didn’t look like much…but they were delicious. If you’ve never had a potsticker, they are wonton wrappers filled with ground pork, sliced scallions, and seasonings. They are seared on the bottom and them steamed to cook the whole thing. These were served with soy sauce. They were fantastic!

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Philip’s mi xao was a huge plate of fried egg noodles dripping in sauce, vegetables, and meat. The owner suggested that he try it with sriracha, telling him that it was delicious on the mi xao. He did try a bite, because usually he loves very spicy foods, but was unable to put it on the whole dish…he’s had a sore throat and just couldn’t go there. The noodles were very crunchy around the edges of the plate but soft where the sauce was. I tasted it, and it was delicious. I can’t even describe it. Honestly, it’s different from anything I’ve had at a Chinese or Thai restaurant, so I wouldn’t even know how to begin to compare it to anything….so you need to try it! Philip finished the whole thing. It was just too good to stop!

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All right, I feel bad even saying this…but I wasn’t crazy about my bánh xèo. It was very crunchy, and everything was obviously very fresh and well-cooked. It was fairly bland, but it did have a sauce that I was a little scared to use because it had something that looked like chili flakes floating in it. It wasn’t spicy, though, so I poured some over my bánh xèo. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t for me! It was huge, and I could only eat about half of it. I found myself wishing that I had gone ahead and ordered the pho (pronounced “fuh” if I’m not mistaken) or the fried rice, which I had the last time that we went there and loved. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, aside from Ichiban, it was the best fried rice I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. I recall that it was delicious!

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We were far too full when we were finished with our meal to order dessert, but their desserts sounded delicious. Fried banana-fresh banana wrapped in egg roll skin and fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar? Mango sticky rice-sticky rice topped with fresh mango, coconut milk, and peanuts? Yes, please! We’ll just have to eat the pho when we go back so we’re not so full and order one of these treat! We’ll definitely be back, and it won’t be another five years this time.

Old Saigon is located at 2601 Dayton Boulevard, Red Bank, TN 37415. You can reach them at 423-876-0322. They are open Wednesday-Saturday, 11:30-8, and Sunday, 11:30-2:30.

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3 thoughts on “Old Saigon Vietnamese-January 6, 2012

  1. I could eat Thai and/or Vietnamese food every. single. day. !!! Before I moved back to Houston, when I would visit, a friend and I would go to a place that is no longer open, much to our chagrin. Formica tables, wall-mounted TV on, soundlessly sharing soap operas, kitschy velvet paintings of SE Asia landscapes, staff chattering with each other in Vietnamese and a sprinkling of English ~ you get the idea. But the food … !!! Ohmygosh, we almost always shared spring rolls and each had one of their noodle bowls, a variation of pho. We’d mix the sweet chili sauce with the peanut sauce, and add a dash of soy for dipping the spring rolls, then if there was any left, we’d add it to our chicken noodle bowls, along with generous amounts of Thai basil, mint and cilantro.

    I’ve been delighted to help with Asian noodle classes at the store ~ would you like some recipes? 😉

  2. PS I think you and Philip need to plan a trip to Houston so we can eat! Let me lose about 20 pounds, and ya’ll come on down!!! xoxo

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