The name ‘Saigon District’ references the many geographical precincts that are Ho Chi Minh City.
Owner Cuong Nguyen’s nostalgia for his childhood home has created a charming space enhanced with cultural markers from his country of birth. Golden butterflies and lotus leaves adorn the walls, a vase of fuchsia orchids are set on the bar and woven cane baskets cover food.
Saigon District is determined to deliver a new generation restaurant – contemporary fusion-Vietnamese, attentive service, a stylish interior and a menu with a variety of price-points.
Fresh, light and vibrant are the hallmarks of Vietnamese cuisine. Salads, rice paper rolls and noodles feature on most menus including this one and here you’ll find a couple of twists.
We were fortunate enough to be invited to dinner courtesy of Cuong. In addition to our choices, Cuong sent out a couple of extra plates to fill out the experience. This is what we ate.
We started with the Saigon prawn cracker. Our table attendant was quick to point out its authenticity, a substantial, sesame seed infused crisp with real prawn pieces embedded in the cracker. You’ll never eat a complimentary prawn cracker again once you know what is possible with the subject matter.
We were treated to an experimental starter which we hope will feature on the specials or regular menu soon. Char-grilled pineapple and watermelon with a caramelised balsamic reduction and truffle oil, topped with cream cheese and peanuts made for a unique and refreshing plate. The sweetness of the fruit and acidic balsamic were complemented by the more savoury truffle flavour and the cream and crunch rounded out the textural elements of the dish.
Vietnamese spring rolls are a favourite and at Saigon District you can try them three ways: rice paper, fried noodle or steamed pho noodle. We chose the rolls platter to share and ate a traditional duck roll, the mushrooms in their crunchy shell and the terrific pho roll stuffed with Cape Grim beef and lemongrass which was the absolute standout. The pho was light, moist, fresh and full of flavour.
We went for the two specials of the day: a Pink Ling curry and a beef cheek and tomato curry. Both dishes were substantial serves and full of flavour. The gorgeous lemongrass and basil coconut sauce made the fish curry the highlight. The beef cheeks were a very close second set in a rich sauce with caramelised undertones.
Finally, Cuong was keen to show off a little quirky piece on the menu – the Vietnamese taco. The taco is a twist on the traditional crispy Vietnamese pancake – banh xeo – designed for the consumer to cut into pieces, stuff with the filling of herbs, bean sprouts and meats, roll up and dip in its accompanying sauce. At Saigon District, Cuong has cooked the pancake in a shell and stuffed it so you can enjoy the filling distributed like its meant to be. The fresh salad, prawns and pork belly were a big hit.
There’s a modest wine list and we enjoyed a couple of Tasmanian pinot gris by the glass.
Saigon District served delicious, good value Vietnamese meals with terrific service and a great aesthetic. Definitely worth a visit.
Find them and their menu on Facebook – @saigondistrict
They’re located at 8/285 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart.
Call them on 03 6234 2542
At the time of writing, they were open Tuesday to Sunday from 5.30 pm, closing at 11.00 pm on Friday and Saturday nights and 9.30 pm all other nights.