food truck quick bite: lady saigon
Nothing like really getting back into the SF food scene than with a trip to my fave spot, SOMA StrEat Food Park! The last few weeks in town have been mostly sunny-ish and rather warm for this time of year and eating outside seems like a great idea while I can. It's a late Saturday lunch early dinner time and the place is rather empty of people and the trucks are just opening up for the evening.
I see many of the usual suspects including a couple that are here a lot but for whatever reason, I'm just not in the mood to chow down on what they are offering. Such is the case with Lady Saigon. I see them pop up at food truck events around town quite often but usually there are others that seems to catch my appetite instead. This time around I figure I may as well give them a try since they are here and I have been around multiple times with many of the other trucks. Yeah I know, it is kind of like saying "because it was there" when asked why you ate someplace. Probably not the greatest of reasons to try a place, but not the worst one either.
Their menu is either banh mis or bowls and the reasonable thing seems to be to try one of each.
This is the barbecue chicken and roast pork banh mi with you usual a mix of butter, pate, cucumber, carrots, cilantro and jalapenos on a french roll. For comparisons sake, it is just a tad smaller than the one you would get at Saigon Sandwich, though double the price. The veggies are all nice, fresh and crunchy. The meat was tender, though it was more chicken than pork. And, surprisingly, even with the peppers, not as spicy as you might think. I did add some sriracha to help it out a bit. Of course it might have also helped if the meat was hot or freshly cooked off the grill. What I got didn't have any temp heat coming off it. I'm guessing no heat lamp in the truck? For the basics, I think it is a good enough banh mi to give it a pass. Stacking it up with its price against others in town, it falls a little short. But then again, it is a sandwich for under $10 in SF and we all know how hard that is to find.
And hey, nothing says Vietnamese cooking like a side of tater tots right?! If nothing else, they were hot, crispy, not too greasy and an ample enough supply for a side order. Nuff' said on that.
Here we have the Lady Saigon Combo--barbecue short ribs, pork and chicken over cellophane noodles with cilantro, cucumber, pickled carrots, lettuce and some crunchy onion bits. The chicken here was the same as from the sandwich so nothing new to report. The beef came off as somewhere between jerky and chewy though it did at least have more spice than the chicken or pork. Or at least from the few pieces of pork there were. The biggest disappointment with this dish was the meat was about room temp and the noodles were cold. I think I was expecting something like a hot noodle bowl but this definitely was not it. I don't know if heating it up would have made a difference, but as it was, there really wasn't much flavor going on here aside from the small heat on the beef. But you do get a ton of noodles to fill you up in place of meat!
In general terms I really think they need to work on their spicing for the meat as well as serving it temp hot, or at least warm. On the banh mi it passes enough due to the other ingredients but on the cold noodles it was just unappealing. There are a number of Vietnamese focused food trucks and vendors in SF so you'd think with all the competition they would want to stand out more with maybe freshness or flavor or something totally different beyond just bowls or bahn mis.
I guess I can at least say I've tried them now if anybody ever asks, though there won't be a next time. That is one of the good things about a food truck park, there are always other choices. And if nothing else, I can always go back to the tried and true ones I know are good. I think we've also learned the lesson that "because it was there" is not a good reason either.