Saigon Tiger has been open for a couple of months in the Davis plaza space that used to be Taipei Tokyo and several other unremarkable eateries over the years. My understanding is that the chef owner was previously operating in Malden, but information is strangely hard to come by as they don’t seem to have a website. Their menu is small, just bahn mi, bun noodle bowls and rice bowls with a couple of sides and salads thrown in. Usually this bodes well but unfortunately our initial visit was not a smashing success.
I wanted so much to like the food, as when we walked in there were all the signs that they are trying to be an environmentally friendly eatery. Bamboo straws, beverages in glass bottles or a self serve tap water station. But that and the friendliness of the owner’s sister who was working the register and the entire front of house was sadly where the positives end. First, there was the pricing: as they have no website to check prices, I ordered pick up by phone based on a door dash menu. Everyone in our party wanted bun noodle bowls, so we ordered one pork, one beef, and one tofu, and a papaya salad. Prices on door dash were listed at $16.85 for a noodle bowl, which had me raising my eyebrows, but the actual price on my receipt in store was $14 for the meats and $13 for the tofu. Marginally better… but my receipt shows they add about $1 per bowl as a " biodegradable container fee." Now, there is no one more in favor of avoiding single use disposable plastic than I, and I understand greenware products are pricey, but I balk at attaching extra fees to green practices which customers are not choosing up front, as it tends to cause people to believe that you cannot be environmentally friendly without paying more, and creates a lot of push back. Still, I’m happy to pay that price for a big, flavorful, complex noodle bowl.
Sadly, this was not that. It was… fine. Smallish, boring. No herbs- nary a basil leaf or sprig of cilantro, nevermind fish mint or anything more interesting. Nicely pickled carrots, some shredded daikon. No option for meatballs or spring rolls, which I often get as a combo when ordering bun. A piddly portion of rice noodles, and arugula as the crunchy green instead of the more typical lettuce. We got condiment cups of sauce, but there was only one cup for 3 noodle bowls. I like a good solid drench of nuoc cham, and this was not that. The meat was fine. Not notable in any way. If this had been an $8 bowl of food, I would have said, hmm, I might be back for lunch sometime. But at the current price point, they’re going to have to kick it up several notches to get return customers.
As an aside, they sent us home with only 2 of our 3 bowls. They were super apologetic on the phone, and we drove back over and since we were not able to tell which of the bowls was missing as we had one brown meat of unknown provenance in our possession, they gave us one pork and one beef. My bad for not checking the order as I left, but also they need some way to mark their meals.
Now, we did not try the bahn mi (I’m still avoiding gluten and the other adult in the family is out of town, and spring onions will always pick noodles of any denomination given the choice) so maybe that’s where it’s at. Bahn mi are listed at $14.95 on google’s platform (which I think pulls from Door dash?), so perhaps they’re hearty and tasty and will wow us and are only $13 or so in the restaurant. We will try. I want so much to like Saigon Tiger, but when I compare the bun bowls I’ve had at Le’s in Harvard Square, or anywhere in Dorchester, or even that I make at home with shrimp, pork meatballs and tons of fresh basil, these just didn’t impress.