Saigon Taste, Wellington

I’m planning a Vietnamese themed cooking night with some foodie friends in a couple of weeks.  By way of background research (yes, sometimes life is hard), three of us got together for lunch at Mount Victoria’s Saigon Taste.  Yum.  I’d definitely go back.

We ordered and shared 5 dishes:  summer (fresh) rolls, chicken salad, hanoi style noodles with fried fish & sesame rice paper (Bun Ca or 38a), fish & pineapple hot pot and hot and sour beef and seafood soup.
If you’d like a closer look, there are pictures on the menu. The soup was a blackboard special, so don’t go crazy looking for that.
Whilst the summer rolls and salad were both billed as starters, the servings were very generous and would make an ample lunch.
Both dishes show-cased the fresh, clean flavours Vietnamese cooking is famous for.  I was particularly impressed with the judicious use of Vietnamese mint.  I once put it in a salad at home, used the same quantities as I would of regular mint and consequently renounced the pungent herb for all time.  Now I’m thinking I might plant some.
The Bun Ca was something of a revelation.  The fish was lightly cooked and crisp on the outside without being greasy.  Together with crispy wafers of sesame rice paper, it sat of a full bowl of noodles, vegetables and dressing.  I was interested to learn more about the seasonings that gave the fish a sweetish almost vanilla-ish flavour and got as far as working out that there are two kinds of Bun Ca.  As soon as I googled Bug Ca Ha Noi, you start to run out of English language hits pretty quickly.
I found that comforting.  I’d think of begging Papa Saigon Taste for his recipe, but since his English was only marginally more proficient than my Vietnamese, I might have to resign myself to ignorance.
The hot pot is only for those who really  like very strong oily fish flavours.  Since I sometimes blanch at the thought of sardines on toast (yes, I’m a fish-wuss) it was not for me.  That’s not to say it wasn’t well prepared.
The final dish was the hot and sour soup.  I don’t recall we discussed this one much.  I’m not sure my friends could really taste much after the hot pot.  And we were all pretty much stuffed full.  Pleasant enough, but not a stand out and I’m not sure that the cooking method did much for the squid.
The service was gentle, unobtrusive and prompt.   On the last point, they weren’t very busy, so who knows how things work on a busy Saturday night.
Three of us ate a big and varied meal for a princely $61.

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