Last night Dar and I found ourselves out and about on a Friday evening after work. Going for a visit to our chiropractor we ended up in the south end of the city very close to the University of Manitoba. Being hungry and definitely not in the mood to cook we decided to check out a new Vietnamese place that we had spotted a couple of weeks earlier on Pembina Hwy.
Saigon Jon’s Vietnamese Kitchen is billed as a fast casual Vietnamese fusion. Meaning that the service is somewhere in between fast food and casual sit down dining. Upon entering we were immediately greeted by a server who inquired if we were new to Saigon Jon’s. Nodding yes she proceeded to give us the lowdown on the menu and service.
The menu is simple but effective, for a main course you can choose from one of four options, bánh mì sandwich, noodle bowl, rice bowl or salad. Each one of those can be topped with your choice of 9 proteins, ranging from pork, chicken, beef or even vegan. Being first timers we inquired about a gluten free option and were surprised to find that was also on the menu. We were also informed that a Halal option was also being developed for those of the Islamic Faith.
I opted for a 12″ charbroiled pork bánh mì sandwich with a sriracha mayo. Darlene went for the roasted pork noodle bowl with sweet and sour sauce and we also got a bowl of sirloin beef phở soup to share between the two of us.
The kitchen is open style you place your order and can watch it being prepared right in front of you. The young staff impressed me with their attention to detail and promptness in dealing with any questions or needs we had.
One thing we were not expecting in the least was the portion sizes. Our most expensive dish was Darlene’s noodle bowl coming in at $9.49 and we expected a good portion but were surprised to see that we could have easily split even one or two of the dishes and walked away completely happy. Three dishes were going to put us into a very happy leftover situation for sure.
Upon receiving our meal, one of the first things that struck me was the freshness of the produce. The bánh mì was packed with garden fresh vegetables and succulent charbroiled pork. Darlene’s noodle bowl also looked exceedingly fresh. I was quite surprised when inquiring about the vegetables and herbs used to find out that in the back of the house was a small but efficient hydroponic garden that is used to supply the restaurant with its own fresh herbs and vegetables! Who does that? Count me as impressed, that is local sourcing at its best!
The sirloin beef phở came with the traditional side plate of garnishes, one thing that I was looking for to see if these guys were really on their game. I was not disappointed, fresh bean sprouts, wedges of lime, fresh house grown basil, chili peppers and sauces were all present. We asked our server for a second bowl so that Darlene and I could season our phở according to our own taste.
I proceeded to lace my phở with Sriracha sauce, basil, a few chili peppers and of course a nice squeeze of lime. I was impressed by the tenderness and taste of the sirloin and completely blown away by the beef balls in the soup. They seemed to just pop in your mouth as you chewed! The flavors were complex and fresh, the one and only tiny complaint is that the beef stock could have been perhaps a bit stronger in flavor. If they are using a master stock that they keep adding to and letting the flavors combine over time this should sort itself out eventually in the coming weeks and months.
Overall the experience was excellent, for a start up business that hopes to grow into a Winnipeg chain I think that Sheraz Ali and his partner have really hit on a winning formula. The food was of superior quality, service was excellent and the price is beyond reasonable for a family to dine out. Our three dishes with two bottles of pop cost fewer than 40 dollars and could have easily fed a family of three or four.
If they can keep the quality and service at this level I don’t see how they can be anything but successful in any future endeavor.
Authors Note: As of this posting Darlene and I have been back several times and have noted many things. The staff have remained very quick and efficient, the food quality has remained at a high standard. Although they have not been able to deliver a cold cut Bahn Mi sandwich due to running short on supplies.
Management has always been a heartbeat away ready to deal with any issues.
Also I can report the bathroom facilities are above standard for this type of establishment, not only being spotless but also being freshened by a remote device.