Saigon Restaurant Thai Food Festival

Monday night while wandering down Church Street, Debbie and I were looking for dinner and decided to try a place new to us – Saigon Restaurant. I expected it to be your typical pan-asian multi-cuisine restaurant, but hoped (from the name) for some decent Vietnamese dishes.

When we sat down, we were surprised to see that the menu was entirely Thai, and not just the same tired old thai dishes you find everywhere, but interesting, innovative (and authentic!) dishes we hadn’t seen anywhere else. Evidently Saigon is putting on a three week Thai food festival, and has brought in Chef Chantanee Chuangsuvanich from Bangkok for recipes, advice, teaching, and supervision.

Our impressions after the cut.

We ordered three dishes, plus dessert: Tom kha huabil (coconut milk soup with banana blossom), san jan phad koong (rice noodles with egg and dried shrimp), kaengkua moo gab fak leung (pork and pumpkin in red curry with basil), and khao niew mamuang (mango with sticky rice). The chef included a freebie – spicy minced chicken with basil but I didn’t get the Thai name.

The tom kha was very tasty, nice tartness to balance the creaminess of the coconut milk, pungent lemongrass, and tender coconut blossom shreds. One nice touch was that it wasn’t as sweet as many tom gha’s I’ve had. The only small defect was that the soup had slightly “broken” and lost its emulsification. It’s tricky to heat coconut milk in acidic broth, I know I’ve broken enough lemon sauces, but it did mar anotherwise delightful soup.

The phad was very tasty, delicate flavors, not oversweet, small brown dried shrimp to add the requisite seafood flavor. I’m not usually a big fan of phad dishes, but Debbie loves them and reports that this one was exceptional.

One of the more intriguing dishes on the menu was the pork and pumpkin in red curry. I had high hopes for this dish, as pork is common in Thai cooking but fairly unusual in Bangalore. Sadly the pork was dry, possibly cooked a little too long. The sauce was quite tasty and the pumpkin chunks were fun, as was the inclusion of fresh pineapple for contrast. Done with tender pork this dish would be exceptional.

The chef came out and toured the room, something that I see relatively frequently in the US and Europe, but have never seen before in Bangalore. She talked to people at each table, explaining what she was doing, and giving details about each dish. She had sent a freebie to us, a minced chicken in spicy basil that was fantastic. We talked for a while about Thai food, and the adjustments she had made for India, as well as the fact that she was training the local chefs to be able to continue these dishes after she left!

Finally we ended with the classic mango with sticky rice and coconut milk. So much of this dish depends on the mangos, and we’re fortunate to have excellent mangos right now so the dish was sublime. Sweet sticky rice, rich coconut milk, all contrasted with the fruity sweet/tartness of the mango. Thai food is a lot about balancing sweet, salty, sour, pungent, and hot to acheive a synergy that is greater than the components. Too often I find when dining at Thai restaurants that they have unbalanced the food to cater to local tastes. I was pleased at how nicely Chef Chantanee had balanced classic Thai elements with local taste.

Total cost for two about Rs 800. We will be back, certainly in the next three weeks, but again afterwards. Strongly recommended.

10 Comments so far

  1. Ravi (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

    That dessert dish looks so damn yummy…..

  2. Chitra (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

    Hmmm, interesting. Must go! I just hope the menu has enough vegetarian options!

    Loved Thai while in the bay area, have never had it here! Charles, have you been to the Thai restaurants on Castro (Mountain View) and in the Sunnyvale downtown? Is the taste here similar?

  3. blr bytes (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

    Must try. Soon.

    Do they have a buffet as well?

  4. Charles Haynes (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 4:33 pm

    The vegetarian section is just as large and varied as the non-vegetarian section. The soup and dessert I describe above are from the vegetarian portion of the menu.

    As for comparisons to Bay Area Thai food, take a look at the article on my blog at
    bottom line is that yes, it compares favorably to Bay Area Thai restaurants.

    The best Thai I’ve had in the USA was actually in a tiny little place in Merrimack, New Hampshire – now sadly defunct. I can still remember telling Mowl the owner/chef that I wanted my Yum Pla Muk “extra spicy.” She looked at me with one raised eyebrow “You sure?” “Yes!” “Ok.”

    When it came it was bright red with ground and crushed chilis. I bravely tried to eat it but had to admit defeat. She laughed. From that day forward we were good friends, and I let her decide how spicy to make the dishes…

    Yes, they will have a Sunday brunch, I didn’t get the details as we’re going to the Sunday Jazz guitar lunch at Grasshopper this Sunday.

  5. Deepa Mohan (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 6:13 pm

    A must-try after reading your post!

  6. Ganesh (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 1:09 am

    Charles, your article reminded me of a Thai restaurant I’d been to six years ago in Mumbai with my wife. That was the first ever restaurant meal we’d had together and it was special. Thanks for bringing back pleasant memories.

    On another note, a couple of weekends ago my wife, two little sons and I visited Mainland China off MG Road at about 2:30pm. The place was packed and we didn’t have reservations. Whilst I was okay to wait my turn to be shown to the next available table, what really irked me was that there was not even water available for waiting patrons. It will be great if a thoughtful touch like that is added to the restaurant.

  7. Chitra (unregistered) on May 19th, 2007 @ 1:08 am

    Aah, the Grasshopper. That is another place we have been meaning to go to. There really is no time to pursue restaurants like in the past!

  8. Ankur Chopra (unregistered) on May 24th, 2007 @ 6:40 pm

    Hey guys I think u should check out this place called Tchi on Queens Road.It serves awsome South east asian food and the duck is just out of this world.

  9. Ankur Chopra (unregistered) on May 24th, 2007 @ 6:40 pm

    Hey guys I think u should check out this place called Tchi on Queens Road.It serves awsome South east asian food and the duck is just out of this world.

  10. Ankur Chopra (unregistered) on May 24th, 2007 @ 6:47 pm

    Hey guys I think u should check out this place called Tchi on Queens Road.It serves awsome South east asian food and the duck is just out of this world.

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