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Saigon-Noodles

In a word: Super southeast Asia soup shop.

The specs: #0580  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at QuomodocumqueYelp, Insider Pages, Shanghai Crushin', Mad Hungry, Trip Advisor, 77 Square, Eat Drink Madison; Isthmus interview with owner; Saigon Noodle LLC on Urbanspoon

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JM ate the grilled beef and shrimp com dia (rice dish).
Kristin ate the house special nam vang (rice noodle soup).
Nichole ate the Saigon deluxe pho minus the tripe.
The bill was about $30, or $10/person, plus tip.
JM gave Saigon-Noodles a B+; Kristin and Nichole gave Saigon-Noodles an A- (see our grading rubric).

Saigon-Noodles* is nestled between Sa-Bai Thong and Ginza in a nexus of Asian food options on the west side (to say nothing of the fantastic Asian cuisine at Nifty 50's next door). The decor is simple and utilitarian, but more's the better to focus on the food. 

We started with some lemonade, which was fine, and some Thai iced tea which was strong, sweet, and clean with no aftertaste.

JM's entree was either a rip-off on their part or a mistake on his. His meat and rice dish was served alongside some thin sweet and sour plum sauce which kinda plain and normal. The amount of meat on the plate indicated that this dish should have been at least $2 cheaper and led him to wonder if soups and soups alone are where their heart is. The vegetables accompanying it were standard salad bar veggies and did not make up the difference. 

Rice plateKristin's nam vang featured a good, umami taste with a hint of sourness and a lot of salt. "Some might find it too salty," she said, but "I love salt, so I didn't notice it at first." The seafood was very high quality: plump shell-on shrimp, calamari that was less chewy than average (acknowledging that "chewy is kind of calamari's nature"). The pork was average though the large pieces presented a chopstick novice challenge.

Nichole, too, mostly used her spoon for the deluxe pho with round steak, flank, tendon, and meatball (remembering how she wussed out and ended up wasting the tripe at Bamboo Hut, she asked them to omit it, and they kindly obliged). The broth was light and clear, and arrived cool enough to eat. The tendon was very good - think savory gelatin, not rubber band - and thin slices of steak and flank were cooked to medium and were just a bit chewy. The meatballs were bouncy and mild. Thin slices of yellow onion and discs of green were native to the bowl, and begged to be augmented by sprouts, basil and jalapeño from the garnish plate.

Both Kristin and Nichole figured the amount and selection of garnishes to be average, with more sprouts than either could use, but all of the components were exceedingly fresh. Both soups' broth:bits ratios were in balance.

Soups

The service felt a little slow, but probably only because we had postprandial obligations. We'd come back to linger over this soup again, and leave the rice dishes aside.

*We've seen the name of this place spelled many ways, so we went with what was on the building and the menu, i.e., plural with a hyphen.

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Props for referencing umami.

There's nothing like a big, steaming bowl of spicy rib-eye Pho from Saigon-Noodle in the bitter, frozen dark days of January-February.
Did this once with the addition of a nasty head cold and thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

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