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Saigon Village in San Rafael

Downtown Vietnamese restaurant loses a step.

You could stand on a corner and look around until a restaurant sign draws you in. But we have a better idea. Each week, Patch picks a restaurant in Petaluma, Novato or San Rafael that is worth checking out. Here's this week's choice:

Saigon Village

(www.saigonvillagerestaurant.com)

720 B St., San Rafael, CA 94901, (415) 453-3505

Overview: Occasionally people in Marin whine to me about the dearth of restaurants, specifically ethnic places, here in the county. People need to realize our population is a bit over 250,000, while San Francisco has more than triple that number plus 17 million visitors a year.

It’s not surprising that we have only two Vietnamese restaurants in all of Marin, La Maison De La Reine in Corte Madera and the other in San Rafael, Saigon Village. 

For more than seven years I’ve been patronizing Saigon Village in downtown San Rafael. For me, it has always been a solid go-to place for delicious food, especially the beef soup or pho (pronounced phuh, not foe). Given my history with Saigon Village, two recent visits were doubly disappointing.

The usual rich beef pho broth, on a recent visit, was weak and had pools of fat floating on top. The brisket was tough and the some of the elements of the inclusions: bean sprouts, jalapeño, lemon and the missing sprigs of cilantro. I usually order it with sliced raw eye of round, which is cooked in the broth.

I also had the fried fish cakes that were covered in grease. I complained about them to the manager, but nothing was done. I didn’t eat them.

Surprised at the slip in the pho, fish cakes and lack of customer service, I returned the next day and ordered the fresh spring rolls, goi cuon. Wrapped in rice "paper" they should contain rice noodles, mint and cilantro, lettuce, a slice of thin roasted pork and sliced prawns.

Theirs had rice noodles, lettuce and prawns. No pork and no herbs. Disappointing.

Décor: Scruffy.

The Drinks: Beer, iced coffee, iced tea and sodas.

Appetizers: See above.

Entrees: See above.

Service: Robotic and not always customer friendly.

Cost: $6-$13

Handicap accessible: No. Steps must be negotiated to get in.

Noise level: Comfortable to speak.

kenn March 31, 2011 at 03:38 PM
I, too, have noticed the decline: do they have new management?
Pam Dixon March 31, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Grace, Have you tried Savory Orient on C Street in downtown San Rafael? Absolutely delicious food, gentle efficient service, quiet enough for good meetings with co-workers of old friends and quiet, lovely decor. I highly recommend it. I have never had a bad experience there.

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