Fort Worth is not short on places for Vietnamese cooking, but you have to go far afield to find the really good stuff. The original Miss Saigon Café in the ’burbs of Hurst obviously fills a need, at least for folks who don’t want to drive to Haltom City or East Arlington, Tarrant County’s two Vietnamese food meccas. Following Field of Dreams logic, the owners recently opened Miss Saigon Café II in the Westside space that formerly housed the Viet eatery Sonny’s Diner. The décor hasn’t changed much, if at all.
My table of three started with the traditional rice-wrapped spring rolls and the Vietnamese egg rolls, which turned out to be the better choice: The fried more-than-just-cabbage rolls had been generously stuffed with pork, rice noodles, and carrots and came with a tasty, spicy, sweet-and-sour dipping sauce. Unfortunately, the spring rolls had clearly been made earlier in the day; the rice wrapper actually stuck to the plate. While it’s understandable that these labor-intensive delights might be made ahead of time, surely there’s a way to prevent them from becoming gluey. They also were stuffed with so much cilantro they were nearly inedible. (Picking out the cilantro reduced them to a messy pile of ingredients. The rice wrappers weren’t sturdy enough to withstand the evisceration.) The peanut sauce was average. We asked for some sriracha to spice everything up and were given a small plastic ketchup container of the stuff. Thank you.
Between the end of our apps and the beginning of our meal, an unreasonable amount of time passed, precisely 17 minutes. Apparently the chef was just taking great care with each dish –– everything looked and tasted from scratch. And some dishes took more time than others. Our three plates arrived at different times within a span of about 10 minutes.
It was too warm in early August to even consider the pho, so we opted for the vermicelli rice noodle bowl. Sadly, the grilled chicken was spectacularly dry. The noodles were firm and fresh, but the whole bowl was bland, even with the not-quite-as-advertised “spicy” carrot sauce.
The lo mein special with shrimp was pleasantly seasoned. It wasn’t spicy, but everything tasted good, the shrimp plump and fresh.
But the plate to envy at our table was the “chef’s shaken beef” (bo luc lac): fork-tender beef marinated in a soy-and-garlic sauce and cooked just until done. The warm meat was served with caramelized onions on top of cool bibb lettuce, and the contrasting textures and temperatures were wonderful. Although the menu didn’t advertise it, the plate also came with a gingery, salty, scallion-laced bowl of soup, which was delicious. I actually poured a little of the broth over my vermicelli noodles to improve the taste.
On another pleasant note, the French coffee was also supremely well-made. Strong but not paint-peelingly bitter, the cup had the perfect ratio of sweetened condensed milk and ice. The coffee made us think it might be worth going back in the fall to try the pho.
The menu at Miss Saigon is fairly Americanized, even if all the standards are represented. Sometimes the convenience of having an ethnic restaurant on the West Side comes with a price.
Miss Saigon Café II
6220 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW. 628-841-0205. 11am-6pm Sun, 11am-9pm Mon-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Vietnamese egg rolls ……….. $3.50
“Chef’s shaken beef” …….. $10.95
Vermicelli rice noodle bowl . $8.50
French coffee ………………… $2.95