If I had to choose my overall favorite Vietnamese retaurant, Saigon City would be it, hands down. (My favorite in San Francisco is PPQ; they make a fantastic bowl of beef pho). Located in San Mateo along a unassuming street near downtown, Saigon City is always packed regardless of when I visit.
I eat at Saigon City pretty often, so rather than review every dish I’ve ever had there, I’ll tell you about my favorites.
I usually don’t order an appetizer, since their entree portions are large enough on their own, but I love their lemongrass chicken spring rolls. They’re more interesting than standard fresh spring rolls, and the chicken lends a subtle smoky note to each bite.
I almost always order the grilled beef with imperial rolls and rice noodles as my main dish. The beef is charred just right and the mound of shredded carrot and radish pickles on top balance out the heavier flavors. If cold noodles aren’t your thing though, I highly recommend their Saigon-style seafood soup with egg noodles or a Vietnamese grilled beef sandwich (banh mi).
To drink, I usually order coconut juice or my favorite – salty plum soda. Be forewarned: it’s an acquired taste, as none of my dining companions ever seem to like it. But if you like sour or salty flavors (like doogh), you’ll probably love this.
The service is curt but the prices are cheap and most importantly, the food is good. It’s the latter that has made Saigon City one of my favorite standbys to eat at.