Westchester’s only Vietnamese restaurant could just skate. Why try hard if you can’t get this kind of food anywhere else? Lucky for us, Saigonese in Hartsdale deserves destination status. You can’t get this food anywhere else, and you should travel for it.
I went for a Saturday lunch and I was lucky to get in when I did. The room was about half full when we sat down around noon. By the time we left, people were waiting for a table.
For our first course, my famiy and I shared a crepe:
Nice, fresh shrimp and crunchy bean sprouts, and it was served with super-fresh romaine and a well-balanced nuoc cham, the Vietnamese vinegar-fish sauce. The crepe had such a nice crisp on the outside, but was soft and airy inside. A winner!
And pork summer rolls:
A lovely morsel of rice noodles, cucumber and pork sausage, with a soft, moist wrapper and crunch from the vegetables. The peanut sauce was not too sweet, not too thick, not too spicy. Terrific.
For our second course, we ordered pho (how could we not!):
A light beef broth with nice flavors of star anise, cinnamon and allspice, with several kinds of beef, including ribeye, tendon and beef balls, plus basil, scallions, and our own addition of a house-made chili-garlic sauce. My only complaint was with the beef balls, which were more like a dry, dense sausage; hard to imagine they were handmade. It wasn’t my favorite texture. I suggest getting the ribeye version of the soup instead.
I was most surprised by a dish listed on the menu as Grilled Chicken Vermicelli Noodle. Those four words can not prepare you for the layers of flavors and textures you’ll find in this lovely bowl of chicken, rice noodles and vegetables.
On the top were thin, just-bigger-than-bite-sized pices of grilled chicken, marinated in lemongrass and other herbs and spices, along with chopped peanuts, scalllions, carrots and daikon. Next was a thin layer of rice noodles, and underneath that was a bed of lettuce and chopped cucumber and peppers. A healthy dose of the nuoc cham, and this bowl is like the best salad, chicken dish and cold pasta you’ve had, all rolled into one.
I love Vietnamese food, but it’s so rare I get to eat it that I always order my favorite staples. This new dish was a revelation. Very much like lunch at Saigonese in Hartsdale. Go!
The 411 on Saigonese: 158 South Central Park Ave., Hartsdale. 914-288-9088.