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Saigon Sonne

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Hauptstraße 170 – 172 69117 Heidelberg

One of the things I miss most about living in Southern California is the overabundance of Phở restaurants.  Around every corner, in practically every big city in the area, there is some sort of Vietnamese joint featuring this delectable rice noodle dish on the menu.  Not only is this noodle soup inexpensive, but also a good soul soother on a cold, rainy spring day.  Walking down the Hauptstraße here in Heidelberg, I was elated to find a Vietnamese restaurant a few steps away from the Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit) at market square.  Named Saigon Sonne (Saigon Sun), this Vietnamese restaurant has a few bright spots on this busy, touristy street.

 

Taking a step inside the single wooden door entrance, you won’t exactly feel as if you’re in an Asian restaurant.  That’s because the spacious dining room area is plainly decorated with various odds and ends – oil paintings, plants, and sculptures.  Aside from a few colorfully decorated conical straw hats hanging on the simple white walls, along with bamboo plants on each table, the dining atmosphere seems a little flat.  The tables are, however, covered by an eye-catching red and orange tablecloth that adds some style to the place.  Seating, for the most part, consists of dark wooden chairs.  The restaurant is a step up from basic fast food eateries, but also not the most impressive place to dine.

On the other hand, the menu at Saigon Sonne is anything but plain and ordinary.  There is a fairly large listing of Vietnamese and Southeast Asian dishes on the menu, ranging from braised, grilled, or fried meats such chicken, beef, duck, and fish, as well as vegetable stir fry entrées with rice.  There are also various fried rice and fried noodle dishes typical of Asian restaurants in Germany.  The list of appetizers includes traditional Vietnamese wraps and rolls such as spring and summer rolls.  Desserts include a couple of authentic sweets, but also standard Asian treats like fried bananas.

 

For starters, the Nem Tom is an excellent choice.  This Vietnamese spring roll is filled with a prawn stuffing, together with diced onions, chopped mushrooms, bean sprouts, julienne carrots, and rice vermicelli.  Accompanying the rolls is a brilliantly light fish sauce dip.  The rolls are served on a bed of green lettuce and herbs, including Thai basil and mint leaves.  Alone, the spring rolls are hot and crunchy and have a great flavor.  However, the cool lettuce and exotic herbs, along with the tasty dipping sauce, make the rolls a lot more interesting.  The Nem Tom can be ordered either as an appetizer or as a main dish.  The appetizer will set you back 5,00 €.

Unfortunately, there are only two types of phở offered on the menu – either with cooked chicken or beef.  You won’t find rare meat or beef brisket here, only beef flank or chicken breast.  Each one can be ordered as a starter (Vorspeise) or as a main course (Hauptgericht).  Both opinions, however, are fairly expensive – a beef phở appetizer costs 4,90 €, while the large bowl 9,90 €.  Considering that phở isn’t as popular or trendy here in Germany as it is elsewhere, these prices may seem reasonable to the local resident.  However, for the price you pay, the phở is fairly disappointing.

 

Firstly, the beef phở broth is slightly cloudy and isn’t as rich as good phở broth should be.  It should be meaty and flavorful, but it seems watered down a bit.  Simply put, it fails to meet expectations.  The typical garnishes for phở – cilantro, basil, lime, bean sprouts and onions – are already added into the soup.  This is frustrating because the phở soup can be a bit too acidic for some.  On the plus side, the noodles are well cooked and there is a decent amount of beef floating around the soup.  At the bottom of the bowl, you can find traces of some of the signature seasonings used in making phở, which aren’t too powerful.  Condiments such as Sriracha hot sauce and Hoisin sauce are available upon request.

Being the only Vietnamese restaurant in Heidelberg, Saigon Sonne does a decent job of serving up traditional cuisine to serve all the tourists visiting the city.  The service is great and quick to help.  However, for true culinary enthusiasts, the food may be a bit substandard.   Some of the dishes (such as the Nem Tom) are well executed and have me curious about the others, while there are some entrées that have me left scratching my head.  Tack on the high end prices and it’s even more difficult to swallow.  It’s a mixed bag, you just don’t know what the end result will be.

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Summary:

Located along Heidelberg’s Hauptstraße, Saigon Sonne is a Vietnamese restaurant serving up traditional and original Vietnamese and Southeast Asian cuisine.  A quiet getaway from the boisterous and congested main street.  Prices moderate.  Lunch menu featured daily.

Overall – 4 stars

  • Nem Tom (Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Prawns) – 4.5/5
  • Phở Bo Ha Noi (Beef & Rice Noodle Soup) – 3.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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Written by geschmack

April 3rd, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Posted in Heidelberg

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