Here's me swaddled against January in New York. Today was the first day of my last semester of grad school! And it was also 10 degrees Fahrenheit when I left the apartment to head to campus at 10 AM. After a long day of work and class I really wanted a piping hot bowl of soup, so Devin and I decided to try out this new Vietnamese place called Saiguette that had just opened on Columbus and 106th, half a mile away from our apartment. Vietnamese? In Morningside Heights? Previously I'd had to travel about one and a half hours round trip to Chinatown to find any Vietnamese food at all, which seriously bummed me out, as pho and banh mi had become dietary staples for me while living in San José, CA.
After glancing at the restaurant we had some doubts about our choice, as it looks pretty much just like a takeout place. There are a few stools and a counter facing the window, but it's a super small shop...no tables, and no one else dining in. A little of my faith was restored when I heard the owner and employees speaking Vietnamese to each other...that's always a good sign.
And! The pho was AMAZING. We didn't want to carry our food back to the apartment, though they'd given us everything to go (I don't think they have actual bowls and spoons and stuff), so we just unpacked everything and ate there. Oh man, this was some legitimate pho. The broth was perfectly salted and seasoned, they were very generous with their beef, noodles=perfection, and they provided little containers of hoisin sauce, sambal oelek (no sriracha, which at first confused me, but I subsequently got over it), and pickled jalapeños, plus a baggie of bean sprouts, basil, and a slice of lime. I ended up being happy with the counter-sitting, since it allowed me to get my face as close to the bowl as possible while I happily slurped noodles and broth. It was also the perfect amount of everything--I conquered that bowl. And my tummy was warm and happy on the walk back to the apartment, and long afterwards. As good as any pho I've had in California.
Devin got the moon dumplings with shrimp, which he aptly described as "delicious," and then decimated. There's a bunch of other stuff on their menu we want to try--beef satay, steamed shrimp summer rolls, taro mochi, BBQ spare ribs, papaya salad, grilled lemongrass pork shoulder banh mi. So, in other words, we'll be back. Soon. Very soon. I'd also like to mention that we paid $15 for everything, which is a good $6 less than it costs us to eat at Five Guys or Chipotle. And so, so much better.
Here's our view of Columbus and 106th as we were munching away. I'm a little bummed that it took a year and a half for a good Vietnamese place to open nearby, especially now that I'm most probably moving back to California in four months when my program is over. Oh well, it's a good excuse to make Saiguette a weekly excursion. Plus! Another banh mi place has just opened on Broadway and 108th. So expect some sandwich action pretty soon.