As we arrived at Saigon Jon’s, after a considerable drive to south Pembina (2696), I had a “deja vu” feeling but could not put my finger on the familarity. After some time, I realized that it felt like walking into Unburger in the village but instead of burger and fry choices, the selection was grilled meat and rice noodles. What is consistent to both restaurants is their commitment to quality and freshness.
The concept is simple, but brilliant, as the most successful restaurant concepts are. You decide if you would like a noodle or rice bowl, salad or Vietnamese sandwich (Banh Mi) and then which protein from the list that includes a variety of steak, fresh chicken, pork, patties or tofu.
We also love Vietnamese Pho (soup) and so found it hard to choose. In the end we opted for the widest variety and shared. Their Pho starts with a house made broth that is complex and satisfying and could be eaten all by itself. The bowl arrives with rice noodles and flour kinds of beef swimming in the heavenly broth. On the side are bean sprouts and a wedge of lime to enhance the meal-we threw everything in including the abundant and fresh Thai basil leaves.
D selected a toasted 6 inch multi-grain baguette with Vietnamese veggies, Thai basil aioli and charbroiled pork. After one bite, he wondered out loud, why anyone would ever go to Subway again?
Now I love Vietnamese Noodle Bowls and have long enjoyed them at Viva and Little Saigon, two of our favourite Winnipeg Vietnamese spots, so my standard is admittedly very, very high. Saigon Jon’s bowl is right up there with its plethora of tastes and such plentiful meat that you can have a spear of hot honey hoisin chicken with every chopstick full.
The restaurant itself is sparkling clean and well laid out for comfortable eating (I wouldn’t call it dining). The huge white bowls that hold the delicious meals are cheerfully brought to your table as they come hot off the grill. You can see the preparations unfold in front of you as you order. In fact, there is nothing to hide here. You can see right to the back wall of the kitchen where an unusual light source is growing the fresh herbs that are used by the kitchen.
The restaurant was full with many U of M students from nearby enjoying a Saturday night dinner out as well as a number of empty nesters from the neighbourhood. Once the new stadium opens, they will be jammed. I am sure that their choice of location is not by accident. We had the pleasure of meeting Sheraz and his business partner Jon when we were at the restaurant. They are representative of the new generation of restaurant owners in Winnipeg with a clear vision, an excellent marketing network and a commitment to the hard work ahead. They will succeed, there is no doubt in our minds.
Kath’s quote: “Happy and successful cooking doesn’t rely only on know-how; it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life.”-Georges Blanc
Love-that is all.