Restaurant Review: Saigon Cafe, Jersey City, NJ


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http://www.saigoncafejc.com/

Eating out is always an interesting scenario. I know, intellectually, that I can eat a salad almost anywhere. Obviously, there are places that I choose to shy away from intentionally… But for the most part, finding a decent place to eat out, at this point in my diet, is more about whether or not the restaurant is going to serve me anything other than a salad that I’ll want. That’s the big question. There are some issues, that I’ve discussed in previous posts, that need to be carefully considered before eating out. Just keep these in mind when you’re eating out:

  1. All cooking surfaces are almost certainly greased with a soy oil or soy derivative oil.
  2. All dressings, sauces, and other flavorings (except spices, so far) almost certainly have soy and wheat in them.
  3. The meat is almost certainly CAFO meat-factory meat.

So, keeping in mind that I really enjoy cooking, and the fruits of those labors, it turns out to be fairly irregular that I eat out. Mostly, I make all of my own food, and I eat only things that came out of my kitchen. It’s the simple and delicious solution. And when I do go out, I keep notes.

Saigon Cafe, Grove Street, Jersey City, NJ

My first impression of the Saigon Cafe restaurant was a pleasant surprise. This looked like it would count as one of those “Local Hole-In-The-Wall” places, where you encounter some really top quality food. I was hoping that their menu would be packed to the brim with seriously traditional Vietnamese food. We were seated in a small dining area, with about 10 tables. The waiter was ancient, and my guess is that he was the proprietor of the place. I like that about a place. I usually assume that the food is more likely to be lovingly crafted when the proprietor is the person seating me at the tables. It’s a pride thing for them, not just a paycheck.

The menu was a little challenging for me, but that was not surprising. Keeping in mind that soy and rice are deeply ingrained in the various Asian cultures, I didn’t expect the menu to be teeming with meals that were soy free. But I did expect that I would be able to mix-n-match my way to a well conceived soy-free meal.

The waiter came over to take our order. He spoke passably good English, and had no trouble guiding my through my options as soon as I told him that I’m allergic to soy. He stood over my shoulder, pointing at menu items as I flipped the page. “You can eat that one, or that one.” He would say. And “No, no, not that one.” When I tried to order the slow-cooked beef short ribs. Short ribs are very Vietnamese, and I really enjoy the way they cook them. Except for the soy sauce part.

With the proprietor’s help, I settled on a meal in no time. I love seafood, and they were serving something they called Claypot Seafood Curry. I like curry, seafood, and the “Claypot” meals were supposedly slow-cooked stews – and I love things that are slow-cooked!

Claypot Seafood Curry

It was full of flavor! There was clearly some sweetener in the dish, as well as some coconut milk or cream. But the over-all flavor was strong, yet well balanced. The curry was a yellow-curry, as you can see in the picture, and was delightful. The seafood all seemed quite fresh, and was slow-cooked to perfection.

All told, my experience in Saigon Cafe was quite satisfactory! I definitely recommend it for anyone in the Grove Street area of Jersey City, NJ.