My first encounter with Vietnamese food was when we had a vacation in Palawan where they call pho bo as chao long. There were Vietnamese refugees who settled in Palawan thus their cuisine got integrated into the local culture.
However, Bacolod has no such Vietnamese village so Vietnamese food is still exotic to the local palate. Thanks to friends Sylvia Gerangue, Andrew Cadayday and Elizabeth Cadayday who decided to open a Vietnamese restaurant in Bacolod City.
Sylvia Gerangue who’s the chef and manager of Saigon Cafe Vietnamese Garden Resto invited us bloggers through Rick to try their quaint restaurant last night. The restaurant is located at Prk. Marapara 1 Zone 2, Brgy. Bata, Bacolod City and it is easy to locate since it’s near Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club.
The restaurant opened last November 2012 but only operates in full swing for the last 3 months. Sylvia took a 3-month course in Vietnam to learn authentic Vietnamese cooking prior to opening. They also buy their condiments, sauces and noodles in Vietnam in order to have that authentic Vietnamese flavors. She had us try six of their specialty for the week but unfortunately, pho bo is not available that night.
Com Chien of Vietnamese Fried Rice topped with sliced grilled spare ribs. I liked the spare ribs, it’s tender and very flavorful. At the price of P153 it’s already good for 4 persons. I think the serving is large enough for 6 persons considering you’ll still order other dishes although Com Chien is already a complete meal.
Bo Kho is a Vietnamese Beef Stew (P99) which tastes quite similar to our “bakareta” but with the additional aroma and flavor of star anise. It’s served with rice noodles instead of steamed rice. As what Sigrid of Mama Cooks pointed out, rice noodles for Vietnamese is what steamed rice is to us Filipinos.
Bun Thit Nuong (P113) is grilled pork and rice noodle salad with vegetables and generous amount of peanuts with a sweet and spicy sauce. All the ingredients are placed on top of the cold rice noodle and you drizzle the sauce on top and mix everything before you dig your chopsticks in. It’s also very flavorful with just the right blend of sweet and spicy flavors. It’s quite filling and is already a complete meal.
Cha Ca Hanoi (P139) is a dish which aside from Pho Bo, you should always try whenever you’re in a Vietnamese restaurant. It’s a platter of pan fried cream dory with vegetables and herbs. The challenge is in the eating part where you have to wrap the ingresients yourself. If you’ve tried your hands at preparing lumpia, then you won’t have any problem.
First, you dip the rice wrapper in cold water to soften it but not too long lest it turned soggy. Arrange small portions of fish, rice noodles, fruits, vegetables and herbs on the wrapper and season with chilli sauce. Roll the wrapper then eat. Although it can be a little messy to prepare, I still enjoyed it and loved the refreshing blend of flavors. It’s filling and also healthy.
Saigon Cafe also prepares Asian fusion dishes and the week’s specialty included Malaysian and Thai dishes.
Nasi Ayam (P153) is a Malaysian fried chicken served with sambal chili sauce, broth, and aromatic rice. You will appreciate the flavor of the chicken when eaten with the aromatic rice. They are, as we say it in Ilonggo, sampat gid.
Another winning dish for the night was the Thai Red Pork Curry (P99). It’s simply hot and spicy pork curry with kaffir lime but it was bursting with flavors we all love it.
And to cap the wonderful evening of good food and good company, we had the Ca Phe Sua Da of Vietnamese Iced Coffee with Milk (P60). The coffee is brewed in a small metal filter into a glass containing condensed milk. When the coffee is about the same amount as the condensed, depending on your preference, you stir and pour over a glass of ice and enjoy the coffee-caramel flavor.
I’m glad Saigon Cafe opened in Bacolod so we will get to enjoy Vietnamese food. Their serving size is generous, the ingredients are fresh and the price is very affordable. Their current space is quite small but there are plans of opening a full service restaurant at a new building near the Riverside Medical Center this May.
Vietnamese cuisine uses a lot of herbs unlike Filipino dishes but I believe our palate will not find it too foreign. I highly recommend you try the Vietnamese food and even the Asian fusion offerings of Saigon Cafe. I hope they would open for lunch but I understand that since it’s still mostly a one-woman team, Sylvia already got her hands full with their current operation schedule.
Saigon Cage is open Wednesdays to Sundays, 4:00pm to 9:00pm. You can call them at (034) 708-9036, 0943-4923750 for inquiries and reservations. If you are a group, you can negotiate with Sylvia to open on a Monday or Tuesday.
Saigon Cafe Location Map