“ Type: Chinese / Address: 14 South St Andrew Street / Edinburgh EH2 2AZ / Scotland / Tel: 01315 573737 „
You might be forgiven for thinking that a restaurant with the name Saigon Saigon serves Vietnamese food but this is in fact one of Edinburgh's best Chinese restaurants. They say that a good test of the quality of a Chinese restaurant is to see how many Chinese people eat there and on this measure then Saigon Saigon is very good indeed, in fact on our last visit the restaurant was very busy and, apart from two German tourists, were the only non Chinese group dining. The restaurant was full to the brim of groups of Chinese diners of all ages ranging from a group of students to several family groups and a pair of elderly ladies.
Saigon Saigon offers the diner two different types of dining experience; the buffet contains the Westernised idea of Chinese food set out in carts where you help yourself and the a la carte and dim sum menus offers a more authentic Chinese dining experience.
One member of my group went for the buffet and it contains all of the old favourites like spring rolls and ribs for starters, curry and sweet and sour for mains and a range of cakes and fritters for desserts. The food in the buffet was all excellent, of a higher calibre than the likes of Jimmy Chung's and although the choice was not huge this was made up for by the quality of the food. My companion particularly loved the crispy seaweed which is a very unusual sight in a buffet, the chewy and tangy lemon chicken and the morish little apple fritters coated in sesame seeds for dessert. Certainly people who are fans of Chinese buffets will enjoy the food at Saigon Saigon.
The other two of us decided to be adventurous and sample the dim sum menu. The restaurant obviously caters largely for Chinese patrons as the written menus were in Chinese script, thankfully they also have a menu which consists of colour photos of the dishes where you can get an idea of what the dish looks like before you order.
Dim Sum are a variety of bite sized dumplings and buns which are brought out to your table in little wooden baskets and shared along with bowls of rice or noodles and plates of veg. The good thing about Dim Sum is that you get to sample a nice variety of different foods although I was not brave enough to try the chicken feet the diners at the next table were tucking into with gusto. I think I would have welcomed some advice on ordering as it was our first time eating Dim Sum and we had no real idea of what to go for but in the end we made our choices and were happy. I have no idea what the Chinese name for our dishes is but we enjoyed a variety of moist little dumplings packed full of seafood as well as light and crispy pork buns with a huge bowl of sticky white rice and a plate of stir fried vegetables. We washed our meal down with a pot of jasmine tea served in cute little bowls.
Saigon Saigon is a large restaurant capable of seating 130 diners over two floors. The old building with huge high ceilings has been nicely converted with the walls all painted different colours and Chinese artwork on the walls. The dining room is dimly lit and with no background music playing it hums with the sound of conversation yet you still feel like the tables are far enough apart to allow some privacy. The staff were all friendly enough and food and drinks were brought out quickly, the one gripe about the staff was that they were too attentive and seemed desperate to clear our plates away if we put our cutlery down for a few seconds instead of waiting till we were finished. Chopsticks were provided on the tables but if you ask for a knife and fork then it is brought out for you.
I enjoyed dining at Saigon Saigon, it was nice to sample genuine Chinese food for a change instead of the Westernised version of the nation's cuisine we are used to. The bill for three of us came to around £30 for lunch so it is also great value for money especially considering the location in central Edinburgh which can be expensive. It is a restaurant I shall certainly be visiting again in the future when I fancy a fix of Chinese food.