Every time I eat food from Saigon, I am just shocked at how good it is. No wait, it's not just that it's good, but that it is cheap and good. So maybe the menu is a bit limited, but where else can you buy a lunch special for $3.95 which includes soup, a hearty main dish and a slice of flan for dessert? Okay, I agree that the dining room is not the cleanest place I've ever eaten, but the pretty lace curtains and the yummy smells from the kitchen definately make up for it. The service is quiet, friendly and very accomodating.
I admit to having an obsession for spring rolls, both crispy and fresh and Saigon's do not disappoint. They actually have three options: Vietnamese egg roll (aka Crispy spring roll), Spring Roll and Garden Roll. The difference between the Spring Roll and Garden Roll is that one contains shrimps, but they are both delicious. The only complaint I have is that they are sometimes overloading with fillings which burst out of the rice paper wrappers. The crispy spring roll comes with the fish sauce/vinegar dipping sauce and the fresh one comes with a peanut dipping sauce.
Sometimes the best meal from Saigon is a big bowl of soup. The Beef Anise Soup comes in a huge bowl filled with thin slices of beef, noodles, vegetables and a tasty broth. The broth can end up being very tasty if you stir in the hot red chili sauce that comes on top. I'd advise you to scrape off a fair portion of it and add it back to the soup a bit a time until you find the right level of heat. I made the mistake of stirring the whole thing and the broth ended up being a bit too much for me too handle. The egg noodle soup is chock full of pork, shrimp and noodles. It's very mild and extremely filling. The wonton soup is very much more interesting than your usual boring Chinese restaurant variety. The wonton wrapping is more delicate and the filling is cooked to perfection and spiced very nicely.
If you are looking for a bargain, then I'd recommend any of the noodle dishes. They offer beef, pork and chicken, either thinly sliced or chuck off of a skewer. Either way it's delicious with the large bowl of vermicelli noodles, lettuce, carrot, cucumbers and bean sprouts. Sprinkle fish sauce over the whole thing and dig in. Otherwise you can get all the same ingredients as a plate with a side of rice wrappers and you can create your own spring rolls.
As far as the rest of the entrees go, I've only tried the Chicken and Lemon Grass which was very fiery and delicious. My dining partner has tried some of the tofu and vegetable dishes, enjoying them so much that I was allowed only a small bite. The vegetables were fresh and the sauce light and mild.
If you are enjoying the lunch special (soup, entree and dessert for $3.95) then you get to finish the whole meal up with a slice of flan soaked in rum syrup. The flan is a bit tasteless and flabby, but the rum makes up for it. I'd like to be able to recommend the espresso with sweet milk, but for some reason our order never made it to the table. The pot of tea was very nice though, not oversteeped and brought to the table steaming hot.
Taking into account the bill at the end of the meal (usually around $10 for two people for lunch) and the wonderful food, Saigon ranks very highly in my opinion. Just disregard the dreary decor and cramped quarters and enjoy the food and the fact that you've got cash left in your pocket to visit Saigon everyday of the week.