Saigonese Opens in Hartsdale; Tarry Wine’s Spring Classes; Hot Potato Chips at Jake’s Wayback Burgers
Saigonese Opens in Hartsdale (And PS: Run, Don’t Walk); Tarry Wine’s Spring Classes; and Lookout: Fresh, Hot Potato Chips at Jake’s Wayback Burgers!
First Taste: Saigonese Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine
Reader, we stalked the place, regularly driving by 158 S Central Avenue, looking in windows, monitoring progress, and generally making ourselves a nuisance. Finally, during the snow-tastrophe days of last week, Saigonese debuted in Hartsdale. We’re just going to say it now: Run, don’t walk.
I mean, could there be a restaurant whose debut is more timely at this particular moment, when everyone we know is either on a Z-Pak or regularly hawking up hideous, tubercular goo? Between rampant norovirus, pneumonia, and the flu—whoops, it’s rumored that they screwed up the vaccine strain this year!—we’re all practically dropping like flies in our need for the health-giving properties of hot, beefy pho.
Until now, there has been no pho in Westchester, so we clawed our way over a snow bank, and, even with ice melting into our shoes, we were happy to get in the door at Saigonese. The digs are modest and appear only slightly changed from the space’s previous iteration as Tuscany Red Barn Pizza, but if great pho can be slung between Mediterranean arches and sunset-colored walls, then this is where it’ll happen. Now, remember: First Tastes are not reviews—Saigonese had only been open for four days when we visited, and that’s way too soon to judge—but most of the dishes we tried here are worth some soggy ankles and more.
We started with two orders of summer rolls ($6 each) and, while the standard shrimp/lettuce/vermicelli/mint version was lovely, the “exotic Saigon roll” was the knockout of the whole meal. Transparent rice-paper wrappers revealed diagonal slices of dried Vietnamese sausage (similar, if not identical, to the delicious dry sweet sausages of China, and, for that matter, Thailand). These were delightfully countered by a julienne of sweet, crunchy jicama. Add creamy scrambled egg, vermicelli, holy basil, and a small dipping bowl of nutty black-bean sauce, and you have two taut rolls of delicious, multi-textured happiness. Also seductive was a starter of bahn cuon cha lua (steamed rice crêpes, $9), where the silken, pillowy white crêpes were rolled around carnivorous fillings of pork and mushrooms; plus, they come served with heroin-like deep-fried shallots, cucumber, sprouts, funky fish sauce and a fresh, creamy Vietnamese sausage, which bears a titillating similarity to mortadella. Yes, Baby, please.
Saigonese is small and still getting its legs, yet it was mobbed despite a low-key launch and (when I made repeated calls) a virtually unanswered phone. I visited on the night after the snow-pocalypse and, still, not one table was empty and some arrivals were left standing. Understandably, the pacing of our meal was slow. Expect a few growing pains at Saigonese—nothing major—but if you’re a finicky, clock-watching diner, you might want to give Saigonese some time. I will say that every complaint was handled swiftly and with a real eagerness to please.
And the pho? (Please, when you say this in your mind, pronounce it correctly as “fuh”, mostly because, when you think it incorrectly—“foe”—those wonderful “What the Pho” T-shirts don’t make any sense.) We ordered the Pho Saigon Dac Biet ($9.50 with brisket, beef rib-eye, beef balls, and tendon, with rice noodles, bean sprouts, lime, and basil leaves), and it was rich and haunting; my ankles instantly felt dry and I went to my happy place. The roast-y broth was heavily perfumed with star anise and the sweetness of caramelized beef. The rare-cooked rib-eye slices were slender but thick enough to retain beefy flavor and chew, while the meatballs were melting, the noodles, bouncy, and the herbs, fragrant. It was the type of soup that you could just hang your sick head over and inhale to feel somewhat improved, though we missed a table salad of lime, chilies, mint, basil, sprouts, etc. Instead, Saigonese’s traditional Pho Saigon-style comes with sweet bean/hoisin sauce and Sriracha, which is not the same, although the pho came garnished with cilantro and basil. Saigonese also offers six other versions of pho, many of which come with the to-be-hoped-for table salad.
To be honest, we were stuffed to sloshing (and, given glitches, the meal was rather long), so we skipped the roster of desserts and beverages ($2-$4.50), which looked intriguing and included delicious-looking coffees and drinks (lychee and longan drinks, fresh lemon soda, Vietnamese soda, fresh coconut juice). For sweets, there was traditional Vietnamese rainbow ice with coconut milk; crème caramel; and ice creams and smoothies (some with tapioca pearls). As yet, Saigonese serves only two beers (Heineken in cans and Corona in bottles) and you will be asked to place your order by its number on the menu. This helps with those whose Vietnamese pronunciation is not up to par.
So, run, don’t walk, Folks. Click below for the address and info. Be warned: There might be a wait, and the phone often goes unanswered.
Spring Classes at Tarry Wine
There are a lot of wine classes around, but why not swing by Tarry Wines, which is owned by none other than Joseph Bastianich, aka the Darth Vader of Italian wines?
WINES of CALIFORNIA
Saturday March 2nd 2013
4:30 pm-6 pm
Hosted by: Antonio Galloni
$75 per person
From the site: “Come join Antonio Galloni of the Wine Advocate for a master class on California. Six wines will be presented and discussed at length. The tastings are always well attended, spirited, and full of great information and fun! Q&A is welcome. Cheese and antipasti will be served. The tasting takes place upstairs in our loft space. We start promptly at 4:30 pm and finish by 6 pm, just in time for dinner next door at Tarry Lodge.” Reserve here.
Thursday April 11, 2013
4:30 pm-6 pm
Hosted by: Anthony Giglio
$75 per person
From the site, “Come join renowned Food & Wine writer Anthony Giglio for ‘Grenache Smackdown’! Grenache by Every Other Name is where we pit wines from different countries against each other. Anthony has done these in Aspen during the food and wine festival, and they are a ton of fun. The audience can vote on their favorites. Six wines will be presented with some cheese and salumi to snack upon. Reservations are required as space is limited. Held upstairs in our loft space. “ Reserve here.
Hot Potato Chips at Hartsdale’s Jake’s Wayback Burgers
Yeah, you heard me: shatteringly crisp potato chips all hot and fresh from the fryer. You might find yourself on Intervention, but these suckers are worth it. PS: Jake’s Wayback is conveniently located between H-Mart and Trader Joe’s, which makes it a great, greasy comfort-food break from all that organic food and fresh and healthful fish.