A Taste of Deutschland

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Little Saigon

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Seckenheimer Strasse 81 68165 Mannheim

Despite another Vietnamese restaurant with ‘Saigon’ on its storefront, I was eager to go out and find a good place that does justice to phở here in Germany – even if it means having to travel great lengths for that one tasty bowl of white rice noodle soup.  The ongoing search takes me to the city of Mannheim to one of the handful of Vietnamese restaurants in the city – Little Saigon.

  

From the outside, with its plain paint color, Little Saigon looks like any ordinary shop.  Without noticing the menu encased in glass, you may think it a specialty store selling exotic antiques.  Inside, though, the restaurant exudes a tropical vibe with the bamboo themed décor.  On the ceilings are various Asian ornaments.  The tables are elaborately set with folded napkins and a vase filled with flowers.  The dining room is simple, yet charming and lovely.

The menu here is quite extensive, well organized, and certainly appealing.  Written in Vietnamese with descriptions in both German and English, it is also pretty accessible.  There are specialties of the house priced around 15 €, as well as traditional Vietnamese soups, salads, and snacks.  Main courses include a plethora of chicken, pork, beef, duck, and fish dishes – even a fondue meal for 2 people!  For vegetarians, there are a few dishes specifically to meet your needs.  Traditional Vietnamese desserts and drinks can also be found on the menu.

 

For a neat little show, order the Vietnamese coffee, prepared traditionally in front of your eyes.  At 3,50 €, the coffee is pricier than the average brew, but this one is made with sweetened condensed milk.  The dark coffee is individually brewed in a glass cup using a Vietnamese drip filter.  As you eat your appetizer or mingle with your friends, you can watch the coffee slowly drip over the condensed milk.  After a while, one of the servers takes away the hot metal filter, leaving you free to stir the concoction and enjoy.  Alone, the Vietnamese coffee is strong, but with the sweet milk it is a true treat.  Now if only they served it with a cup of ice, the coffee would be even more enjoyable!

 

The first two items featured on the menu at Little Saigon are two variations of the popular Vietnamese rice noodle phở – one containing slices of beef and the other with strips of chicken.  You may order this soup either as an appetizer, which will set you back 6,90 €, or as a main entrée.

Upon service, the aroma of the chicken phở was truly authentic.  For a moment, it was reminiscent of Southern California phở eateries.  Glancing into the bowl, the soup looked clear but was teeming with various green vegetables, bean sprouts, and red onions.  Not a single piece of chicken and only a few strands of rice noodle were visible – not a good sign.   Sipping the broth for the first time brought on a major amount of displeasure.   The true essence of phở was masked by the overly aggressive amount of acidity already added into the bowl.  Although there was a good amount of chicken pieces under the cover of greens, both white and dark meat, and a small portion of firm rice noodles, the overall taste and flavor combination was off.  Essentially, the chicken phở is a sour chicken noodle soup.  Seriously, what is wrong with this region?  Can’t anyone find a tasty bowl of white rice noodle soup served with the garnishes on the side?  Add to it the hefty price tag and you will definitely be unsatisfied for the rest of the day.

 

Fortunately, to alleviate the damage done to your wallet, Little Saigon offers a daily lunch menu with prices ranging from 6 to 9 €.  An order comes with your choice of the soup of the day (today it is spinach soup) or two vegetarian spring rolls.  The vegetarian spring rolls come with a light fish sauce based dipping sauce.  Despite being petite and barely filled, these rolls are hot, crispy, and bursting with flavor.  The small amount of vegetables and rice vermicelli packs a lot of flavor.  Of course, the delightfully light dipping sauce augments the taste superbly.

One of the items on the lunch menu is Gà Chiên Giòn – fried slices of chicken served on a bed of cabbage, carrots, and bean sprouts in a savory Hoisin sauce.  Also on the plate is a small scoop of white rice and chopped green parsley garnishing the dish.  With the skin fried crisp and the meat juicy and succulent, the chicken is very well done.  The sauce is sort of reminiscent of the red sweet sauce served with Chinese BBQ pork, only it is not thick but watered down.  Allowing the meat to soak up the sauce softens the chicken, but gives it extra flavor.  Moreover, the rice becomes even more manageable after sitting in the sauce.  The dish is tasty and filling, but not overly impressive.

Despite the mixed reviews on the food, the service at Little Saigon is exceptional – the graceful waiting staff do not rush with the service and bombard the guests with dishes, rather they wait until you are finished with a dish (for example, the appetizer) and then proceed from there.  The workers are attentive and often bring a welcoming smile to the table.

Little Saigon has a great environment and extraordinary service.  Despite the moderate prices, the food is acceptable.  With a good selection of traditional Vietnamese cuisine, Little Saigon is worth paying a visit to experience a taste of Southeast Asia.

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Summary:

Situated near the Mannheim planetarium, Little Saigon serves up original Vietnamese cuisine in a quaint, relaxed dining atmosphere.  Excellent service.  Prices moderate.  Lunch menu daily.

Hours: Monday – Friday: 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM,
            Monday – Saturday: 6:00 PM – 11:30 PM
            Closed Sundays

 

Overall – 4 stars

  • Vietnamese Coffee – 4.5/5
  • Spring Rolls – 4.5/5
  • Phở Gà (Chicken & Rice Noodle Soup) – 3/5
  • Gà Chiên Giòn (Fried Slices of Chicken served with Rice and a Hoisin Sauce) – 4/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.little-saigon-restaurant.de/

Written by geschmack

April 6th, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Mannheim

Tagged with , ,

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