Proper Vietnamese food has finally come to Downtown New Westminster—and Le Saigonnais has brought it with style! As a resident of the neighbourhood, I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the first influx of this cheap and delicious cuisine.
Le Saigonnais isn’t your typical dive that you see lining the Kingsway corridors. Instead, the owners have clearly dressed this place up. The restaurant features its own bar, leather booths, and a modern, low light, almost Zen aesthetic—almost more suited to a swanky Japanese place on Robson. The space could still do with some new carpet, but it’s still one of the fancier Vietnamese restaurants around.
Aside from shiny splendour however, I usually measure the quality of a Vietnamese restaurant based on three key dishes: pho, lemongrass chicken (or pork), and spring rolls.
The real make-or-break dish for a Vietnamese restaurant is the noodle soup, which is called pho. For those unfamiliar, the dish consists of a seasoned beef broth with rice noodles. All Vietnamese restaurants in Vancouver offer a House Special Pho, where you always get a noodle soup topped with well-done flank, sliced rare beef, soft tendon, tripe, and beef balls. If any of these don’t yet appeal to you, don’t worry—you can also pick and choose various combinations. It also comes with fresh bean sprouts, basil, lemon, and jalapeno peppers—all of which I throw directly into the broth. And make sure to top it off with some hoisin and hot sriracha sauce.
Le Saigonnais serves great pho—as it’s pleasantly large, has lots of flavour, and isn’t too fatty. At $7.00, it’s slightly more expensive than what Vancouverites might be used to, but I’m willing to cough up the extra nickels.
Over time, I’ve learned that for many, the slippery noodles of pho can be tricky to eat. For those friends who have yet to reach a certain proficiency with chopsticks, I often recommend the lemongrass chicken on rice. There are several takes on this dish depending on where you go—and the meat can often end up fatty, or contain some unwieldy bones. Le Saigonnais, however, really comes through with this one. Aside from the delightful presentation, they provided a nice cut of chicken, garnished with a fresh and vibrant lemongrass seasoning. It is well worth the $8.00.
What didn’t quite impress were the salad rolls. Filled with lettuce, vermicelli, bean sprouts, basil, pork ham, and prawns, the dish also comes with a peanut sauce and is usually one of my favourites. The rice paper that it came wrapped in however, was a bit stiff. I’m not sure if they were premade and sat around for a while, or if they just weren’t soaked for long enough. At $6.00, they might be a bit steep, but they were a good size, and if they get their rice paper right, it should be worth another try.
Overall, Le Saigonnais has a new upscale look that goes beyond your typical Vietnamese restaurant. The pho doesn’t disappoint, and fans of lemongrass chicken will appreciate their fresh take on the dish. You might have to bring a bit of extra pocket change, but in an area that’s been starved of Vietnamese for some time, it’s worth it. I’ll definitely be back to try the spicy noodle soup—and when I do, I’ll probably give the salad rolls another go.
Le Saigonnais is located at 634 Columbia St. in New Westminster.
Been to Le Saigonnais? Let me know what you think @BryceTarling!