After a holiday break filled with puddings, eggnog, and treats, my family was more than ready to eat a bit cleaner. Everyone except Mochi, who was apparently content to rip into a whole bag of cat Temptations and throw up on the floor.
So my brother Tristan and I decided to take a trip to Saigon Flavors, our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Savannah. It’s a straightforward mom-and-pop outfit located in a tiny strip mall off of Waters Ave. In general, I’ve found that the most authentic places pay more attention to their food and less to their ambiance…and this place is no exception. And it’s a good thing too, because their food is some of the best Vietnamese I’ve ever had.
At this point we’re regulars, so upon sitting down we quickly order a lemongrass chicken and spring roll vermicelli bowl for Tristan and pho tai, a pho with round-eye steak for me.
About 15 minutes later the owner brought out two steaming bowls of Vietnamese goodness.
The first bowl was the pho tai. For those who are unfamiliar with Vietnamese food, pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a flavorful broth-based noodle soup simmered with star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. The meat is sliced thin so it cooks by simply being in the hot broth, and add-ins like cilantro, thai basil, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and jalapeños make a basic soup into a dish with a diverse flavor palette. With this particular pho, Saigon Flavors does not disappoint. The broth was meaty, slightly tangy, and with a subtle hint of spice. Too bad I let the beef cook to doneness while taking photos…rookie mistake I guess! I only wish that they provided more cilantro and basil. The freshness was sorely missed.
While I was taking photos, Tristan had already mixed up his rice vermicelli bowl with spring rolls and lemongrass chicken, or Bun Ga Nuong Cha Gio. I had to do the best I could with an action shot…
The typical vermicelli bowl contains rice noodles (bun), fresh bean sprouts, shredded carrots, shredded lettuce, and the meat of choice. It’s garnished with chopped roasted peanuts and Nước chấm, a sweet and tangy sauce. It’s heaven in a bowl and I kick myself each time I don’t order it! Because I was really craving pho I only gave myself a mini-kick, and stole a few bites from Tristan. It was excellent as usual, but like the pho, it could have benefitted from an extra handful of herbs.
For the price of $20 for two people including tip, Saigon Flavors is a true hidden gem. For me, the combination of the friendly service and the cozy, no-frills space creates a sort of getaway from it all. It’s a calm place where I can have good conversation over steaming bowls of pho, and not break the bank in the process. For this, Saigon Flavors gets 4/5 stars. When I go back home to Savannah, it’s a given that I’ll visit at least once!
6604 Waters Ave., Savannah GA