Saigon Jon’s is a Vietnamese Fast Casual restaurant located on the south end of Pembina Highway near where the old Blockbuster video store used to be. A little while I had the opportunity to go there as part of a Manitoba Food Bloggers event. Johnny Kien, one of the partners and chef at the restaurant hosted us for the evening.
I live in the West End of Winnipeg, home to a good number of very fine Vietnamese restaurants. So, I was curious to see how this fresh take on Vietnamese cuisine would work. It works very well, with the “fresh” of fresh take being the foundation on which the restaurant is built.
One of the elements that enhances the freshness of the food is that Saigon Jon’s grows it’s own herbs for use in the restaurant. They are able to do this by way of the Urban Cultivator. A product out of Vancouver created by some guys who wanted to take “grow your own” in a more licit direction.
The space is bright and wide open. yet with the tables being set up in such a fashion that you don’t feel your are intruding on other diners or vice-versa. The colour scheme is a classic red, black and white.
I arrived early along with the event organizer, Anna Coleshaw Eccles, and we enjoyed a drink as we waited for the others to arrive. I had the Okanagan Spring Winter Ale, which seems like an oxymoron, but which made for a nice refreshing drink before the meal.
We had pre-ordered our meals when we signed up for the event and I had gone for the Hot Honey Hoisin Chicken noodle dish. Before our mains came we tried the salad rolls. The rolls were filled with large shrimp, rice vermicelli noodles, lettuce, cilantro, and possible one or two other herbs, and came with a homemade peanut sauce. Again the freshness of the sauce stood out from any I’ve had anywhere else. Plus the noodles were moist without turning into a sticky mass.
You won’t find a picture of my main dish, because it was so enjoyable, that I forgot entirely about photographing until I was looking at the empty bowl in front of me. The chicken was tender, and the spice was enough to linger after the dish was emptied, but not so much that I felt the need to drink several glasses of milk to cool my tongue. (By way of warning I should add that my spice tolerance is on the high side, so you might not feel the same way). If you want it even hotter, the meal came with a small bowl of hot sauce, again homemade, that you could add to liven up your meal.
All in all, Saigon Jon’s is a “don’t miss” restaurant. It will be a great place to go for a meal when the new Bomber stadium opens, and it may be as close as you can park as well. The owners are hoping to expand and I hope we get to see one closer to central Winnipeg in the next few months.