After my review of Pho Valley a couple of weeks ago I thought I was done for the foreseeable future with reviews of Vietnamese restaurants in the South Metro. The only other one I was aware of is a place in Eagan that is of interest only because Yelp reviews suggest you are more likely to be sworn at than to eat well if you go there. (I am actually tempted to go there for that reason.) Saigon Palace is not that restaurant. It is located in Burnsville, right off 35W (if going north on the highway, get off on Burnsville Parkway and go right and it’ll be in the first strip mall on the right). I discovered its existence while casting about for places to eat relatively close to the Works Museum (which the brats enjoy very much) and it seemed worth a try. As luck would have it, I had a number of reasons to be in that neighbourhood over the next couple of weeks and so went back a number of times, twice with the missus. Herewith, my report.
A restaurant called Saigon Palace has been around in that location for a while, I think. But the current ownership is only about two years old. So the current proprietor—a very friendly gent—informed me. Apparently, they redid the menu after taking it over. Well, I have no idea what it was like in its previous incarnation but I can tell you that it’s a charming little place now and that the food is mostly quite good.
They serve a range of noodle soups—pho, hu tieu, mi and bun bo hue (this last is not on the menu but they’ll be very happy if you ask for it)–as well as bun/noodle bowls, rice plates with grilled meats etc. plus the usual repertoire of American-Chinese dishes with which most Vietnamese restaurants in Minnesota hedge their bets. We have stuck with the Vietnamese fare on our visits and so I cannot speak to the quality of the other stuff. But I can tell you that their noodle soups are generally very good: the beef broth in the pho and the chicken broth they use for hu tieu (served with rice noodles) and mi (served with yellow egg noodles) are both very flavourful. And the quality of the meats in the pho are very good, if not quite as various as can be found in parts of the metro with larger Vietnamese and Hmong populations than in Burnsville: other than in the special pho—and not even so much there—tendon and tripe can only be got as add-ons. That’s not really a complaint so much as an observation.
However, I was not a fan of the style of bun bo hue they serve here, which is closer to the lighter version I encountered at Pho Valley than to the funkier versions at Simplee Pho or Pho 79. There was also some inconsistency with frying in their Saigon special spring rolls. On one visit they were over-fried, on another they were done very well; the filling was very tasty on both occasions. Likewise, the lemongrass chicken is flavourful but a bit much I think for one person to eat, given how salty it is; perhaps a good dish to share if dining with a group. To end on a positive note, both the bun and the com tam/broken rice plate with grilled pork were quite good.
Take a look at the slideshow of pictures of the restaurant and its food and scroll down for my estimation of service, value and relative quality and to see what’s coming next.
Prices, as you can see from the menu pictures, are very reasonable. The service is extremely friendly. Though it will not be apparent from my pictures of the restaurant’s interior, they get quite busy for weekday lunch; more so than at dinner, the owner said, and he also said that weekends get quite busy. So, how do they compare with their peers? If you live close to the Vietnamese corridors on University Ave. in St. Paul or Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis, I don’t think there’s any reason to drive down to Saigon Palace. But if you’re in the vicinity it’s a pretty good bet for noodles and soup. Their pho broth is better than at Cam Ranh Bay, probably on par with that at Pho Valley; Simplee Pho beats them both for bun bo hue and other cooked dishes. Given the proximity to the highway, I suspect we’ll be stopping often for quick, tasty meals on the way back from midday outings to the Cities that don’t involve restaurants. And it’s probably going to be one of our go-to places for meals near the Works Museum.
Up next from the Twin Cities, another Vietnamese report, but from a different point on the restaurant spectrum. We are scheduled to dine with friends at St. Paul’s Ngon Bistro this weekend. And unless our plans go haywire I expect to review them next week. After that a return to Peninsula in Minneapolis and another St. Paul market report.