The last thing I expected to see here was a live Turkey! Let alone two! Among the fortunate-to-be-alive Thanksgiving birds were hens and cockerels, parrots, pheasants and some big ass fish in the pond! To add thrill to the zoo-in-the-city entrance, eerie smoke effect floats you as you make your way into the casual, spacious, unostentatious, open air garden restaurant. I love a glamorous restaurant but this serendipitous-ly strange setup completely stole my heart! The restaurant is airy and vast, with copious amount of overhanging plants, full green turf, simple outdoor wooden furniture, fairy lights, white pickled fence and rustic ceiling fans to complete the country-side vibes. As we sat down to order, I’m praying the food is at least half decent so we could come back and enjoy this rare find again!
The huge menu includes Vietnamese classics like Banh-mi, Pho, salads, wraps, rolls, an array of stir-fries, bbq and hotpot items. The variety excites me, but the ordering system, not so much! Scan and order via a QR code and pay in advance at the cashier before they send your order to the kitchen. All good until you need to order one drink, or one bowl of rice during your meal and a quick wave to the waitress won’t do the job. So order everything you need, if you don’t wish to get off your seat during your meal!
We started our meal bravely with a Jackfruit Smoothie. No, that’s not the first fruit one thinks of when it comes to juicing; but happy to report it was off to a good start! The smoothie was fragrant and sweet, with bits of jackfruit in it. It was creamy without being cloying. If you’re not averse to this tropical fruit, I’m telling ya, order this smoothie!
I could never bring myself to not order the following two dishes at a Vietnamese restaurant.. they’re like the benchmark for Vietnamese food (for me, at least!).
Fresh Summer Rolls were stuffed full and tight with the usual suspects, shrimps, vermicelli, pork and lettuce; and served alongside more salad (carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, lettuce and mint leaves) and a dipping sauce. It was a decent rice roll, can’t complain… prawns were nice and firm, and veggies were green and fresh. The dipping sauce was nicely concocted too. Not overly salty or spicy.
Beef Combo Pho, as the name implies, came with generous amounts of different beef parts including tripe, brisket, beef balls and beef slices; plus heaps of mint leaves, cilantro, bean sprouts and basil. The thin flat rice noodles were soft and silky. The broth was very tasty, complete with soft aromatics from star anise, cinnamon, fish sauce and a good zest of lime juice. I loved the tripe, which was tender to the bite; the beef balls were beefy, springy and juicy. The briskets too, were cooked tender enough without the stringy texture. Unfortunately, the beef slices tasted a tad dry despite the fact that they were pink when served. It’s not about how they got overcooked in the hot broth, if you asked me, but the grade of the beef. Pity, but that aside, still a very satisfying bowl of pho!
Fry Sweet Snail was a challenge to eat. We had to forgo etiquette and go in with our fingers. These little fellas were reasonably meaty for their tiny size and sautéing them up in butter, garlic, onions and spices was possibly the wisest choice! Crazy flavorful! The marriage of butter and garlic was the perfect foundation for the extra spices. The snails were cooked just nice so it stays tenderly chewy. The buttery sauce was so good; and like typical carb loving Asians, we ordered some rice to go with!
Grilled Squid was highly recommend for its freshness but the spicy marinade was a tad too much for me to handle. Prejudice aside, it was very fresh as promised. And grilled to the perfect doneness you can taste the natural sweetness. If you like fresh seafood with a sweet, spicy kick, this is it!
Despite looking and sounding less exciting, Steamed Squid also lived up to the freshness. The flavor was clean with pronounced whiffs of fresh ginger, sweet onions and garlicky scallions.
The menu repertoire is basic, mostly home-style Vietnamese cooking you’d be served at a Vietnamese family’s home. No frills, hearty fare that will leave you satisfied and full!
I’ve shortlisted Bun Thit Gha Nuong Cha Gio Ga, Lemongrass Tofu, Beef Wrap Ba La Lot, Lemongrass Beef Bo Cuon Xa Nuong, and Vietnamese pancake Banh Xeo to try on my next visit….. But first and foremost, I need another one of the Jackfruit smoothies! And meet the Turkey twins again!
Lucky Saigon Cafe @ 356 Tanglin Road, Singapore 247674. Phone +65 6556 8228
Disclaimer – This is not a sponsored post.