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Saigon Cuisine: Flavorful Pho and Other Vietnamese Favorites

Story By Kelli Shiroma Photos By Nathalie Walker
February 26 - March 3, 2012

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For traditional Vietnamese classics and un”pho”gettable dishes, customers can experience the best of both worlds at Saigon Cuisine Vietnamese Restaurant. Upon entering the eatery located on Liliha Street, customers will find a tranquil haven in which they can take a break from their busy schedules and indulge in Vietnamese comfort foods.

  • Oxtail Pho ($9.75)
  • Papaya Salad ($7.25)
  • 3-Choice Combination Plate ($8.50)
  • Spring Rolls ($7.25)
  • Summer Rolls ($4.99)
  • Manager Jennifer Tran
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Saigon Cuisine opened last March, according to Jennifer Tran.

“This is the restaurant’s only location,” Tran says. “I’m the manager and my husband, Taylor, is the cook.”

When asked what sets Saigon Cuisine apart from other Vietnamese eateries, Tran explains that the eatery’s peaceful ambience and twists on traditional dishes make it unique.

“We’re known for our pho and we have a Saigon House Special Chicken Pho ($6.75 medium; $7.50 large),” Tran says. “Our chicken pho is special. A lot of people cook (pho) with beef broth, but we use chicken broth.”

Pho at Saigon Cuisine — a healthy customer favorite — comprises light-bodied broth ladled over rice noodles, is accompanied with the individual’s choice of beef and is garnished with cilantro. Made with fresh and natural ingredients, the pho dishes at Saigon Cuisine — including Sliced Beef Steak and Meatballs (all $6.75 medium, $7.50 large) — are increasingly popular selections.

“We have an Oxtail Pho ($9.75) too,” says Tran of one of the eatery’s most recent menu additions. “We cook the bone (for the phos) for a long time, like one day.”

Besides its pho dishes, Saigon Cuisine is well known for its appetizers. While many Vietnamese restaurants feature spring rolls and summer rolls, Tran says that this eatery has “four seasons” rolls — Autumn Rolls ($4.99 for two) and Winter Rolls ($4.99 for two), in addition to Summer Rolls ($4.99 for two) and Spring Rolls ($4.50 for two, $7.25 for four). Autumn Rolls feature shredded pork, fresh mint, sliced cucumber, lettuce and bean sprouts; Winter Rolls are made with grilled pork hash, rice noodles, sliced cucumber, lettuce and bean sprouts.

“No other restaurant has Autumn Rolls and Winter Rolls,” says Tran, of the appetizers made with fresh rice paper wrapping (opposed to the deep-fried Summer and Spring Rolls).

Another popular appetizer is Green Papaya Salad ($7.25), a mixture of freshly grated green papaya topped with boiled pork, shrimp, mint leaves and toasted peanuts and tossed with the eatery’s special sauce. Customers also often order Chicken Salad ($7.25), a simple salad with steamed boneless chicken, shredded white cabbage, toasted peanuts, fresh mint and onion flakes, tossed in the eatery’s special lemon sauce.

Other main courses at Saigon Cuisine include varieties of vermicelli noodles — served on a bed of fresh lettuce, vegetable garnish, bean sprouts, roasted peanuts and fish sauce with your choice of topping — and rice dishes, or steamed Jasmine rice served with fresh lettuce, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Vermicelli noodle dishes can come with Lemon Grass Chicken ($7.50) or Garlic and Onion Beef ($7.50). The most popular rice dish, however, is House Special: 3-Choice Combination Plate ($8.50), in which customers can select three of the various meats available, including Barbecue Pork Chop, Barbecue Chicken and Shredded Pork.

“For the 3-Choice Combination Plate, you can have Lemongrass Chicken, Barbecue Pork Chop, Garlic Shrimp … any three (under the Rice Dishes category),” confirms Tran.

Although Saigon Cuisine has not yet made its one-year anniversary, the eatery will hopefully have daily or monthly specials in the future, as well as continue to expand its menu. For now, though, the restaurant continues to cater to local crowds with its flavorful food and budget-friendly prices.

“Most of our customers are locals, and the average price per customer is less than $10,” says Tran.

Saigon Cuisine Vietnamese Restaurant

  • Where
    • 1408 Liliha Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96817
  • Call
    • (808) 521-6888
  • Hours
    • Tuesday – Saturday
    • 10 a.m.- 9 p.m.
    • Sunday – Monday
    • 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.
  • Notes
    • Takeout orders available. Parking available in rear of restaurant.