There is so much more to adore about Vietnamese cuisine besides the ubiquitous pho, banh mi and rice paper roll. That is what we discovered during our recent trip to Saigon Alley.
Located at Novena Gardens (next to Revenue House), Saigon Alley is a casual dining concept serving a range of comforting home-style Vietnamese cuisine inspired by the street food of Ho Chi Minh City and the colorful vibes of Saigon.
We went, we ate, we fell in love with the yummy food and quaint little place.
Just look at those rustic brick walls, neon lights and loud graffiti that's splashed across the interior. So vibrant and hipster, yet laidback and cozy at the same time.
We find it suitable for those casual dinner dates and small group gathering, or if you just want to grab a quick after-work bite with colleagues. That is, if you guys haven't already head over for lunch which offers quite a value deal.
Priced between $10 to $12, each Lunch Set comprised of either Big Bowl Pho, Banh Mi or Stew Beef Shin + Vietnamese Roll. Dessert or drink is at an additional $2 only.
The ala-carte menu isn't unaffordable either. No single item is over $15.
We were told that Saigon Alley places a lot of their emphasis on the modern usage of fresh ingredients, and strong flavors like mint coriander, Vietnamese chili, fish sauce, and many secret herbs and spices to add depth to the dishes.
Sounds complicated, but it translates very well onto the dishes.
Take for instance, the Northern Vietnamese Beef Salad ($12). Generous slices of grilled beef are tossed in a medley of lettuce, carrots, basil leaves, laksa leaves, spearmint leaves, cilantro leaves, crushed peanuts, and an invigorating dressing with notes of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chili padi.
And that beef! That tender, smokey, aromatic slices of beef! What an enjoyable party of combined texture, taste and flavors!
The Lot Leaf Beef Rolls ($10) wasn't too bad with its intense beefy flavors and addictive toppings of ground nuts, but PinkyPiggu preferred the Crab Spring Rolls ($8) a tad more for its juicy crunchiness. Crab meat is encased in rice flour skin and deep fried, just like our traditional popiah but with a more hearty filling. Best with an ice cold Singha Beer ($10).
Banh Mi is a must try for me whenever I am in Ho Chi Minh City. Filled with local ingredients and sauces, the baguette is a convenient snack that has evidenced the French influence on Vietnamese culture. I have now found one of Singapore's better ones - Saigon Alley Banh Mi ($9).
Made with house-baked crusty, chewy bread and completed with pork, chicken liver pate, mayonnaise, pork sausage, ham, coriander, pickled carrots, spring onion and chili, every mouthful is filled with deliciousness and satisfaction. Even PinkyPiggu who is usually not a fan of sandwiches took a few more bites then usual.
Roasted Chicken with Vietnamese Fish Sauce ($12) had us salivating the moment it was brought to our table.
Marinated overnight with fish sauce, onion, red & green chilli, fresh tomato, coriander, pepper, sea salt and brown sugar, the thick chunks of chicken thigh meat was well-infused with flavors and pan-roasted to an immense fragrance and succulent tenderness. The well-caramelized chicken skin and bits of charred edges were especially pleasing. Love the fish sauce which gave this dish an umami kick. So perfect with white rice!
The Braised Pork Belly with Lemongrass Marinade ($12) is also not to be missed.
A traditional dish served in the homes of Vietnam during special occasions, the pork belly is slow-cooked in coconut juice, lemongrass and fish sauce resulting in a rich and complex sweet broth with flavors permeating the meat deeply. So simple-looking yet it resonated so well with our tastebuds. Couldn't stop going for spoonfuls after spoonfuls of rice which complemented it superbly.
Chicken Pho ($14) is fine if you're looking for something light-tasting and comforting, but for a taste of robust shiokness, go for the Spicy Australian Sliced Beef Noodles ($14) or Bun Bo Hue, which hails from the central city of Hue.
Compared to Pho, Bun Bo Hue flavors are more intense and robust due to the use of lemongrass and shrimp paste in the broth, and uses a thicker kind of rice noodles which is similar to our laksa noodles.
The spiciness level was just about right, not too fiery but with enough kick. Effortlessly finished the whole bowl. It was slurpilicious!
Fried Banana served with Ice Cream ($5) rounded up the meal just nicely with its crispy spring roll skin bursting with melt-in-the-mouth soft banana within. On hindsight, we should have gone for the Vietnamese Coffee Jelly with Ice Cream ($6) for a caffeine perk-me-up after this sumptuous meal haha.
Indeed, Saigon Alley is a great place to relax and have some Vietnamese food. We enjoyed it so much and ended up eating more than we intended. There is also a wide selection of beers and beverages such as the Saigon Sangria ($18/$38 per small/large jug) and Housemade Jasmine Tea with Lychee ($4.50).
Eat more, drink more, you might fall in love with Saigon Alley too.
Address: 273 Thomson Road, #01-06 Novena Gardens, Singapore 307644
Update on Jan 2017
Contact: +65 6265 7662
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun Lunch 12-2.30pm (last order 2pm) & Dinner 6pm-11pm (last order 10pm)
Prices are (1) Stated in Singapore dollars (2) Subject to 10% service charge & 7% GST (3) Correct at point of published date.
* Written by BFF, a guy who is desperately trying to find a balance while lost in the world of sights, sound and taste.
* Edited with additional inputs by PinkyPiggu
* Photos by PinkyPiggu