[as crossposted from Meathenge.com]
Hi, I’m Mrs. Meathead and I will be your hostess for today.
Today, the Friday before Labor Day, I am “working from home.” And usually when I’m “working from home” myself and Mr. Meathead take the opportunity to go out to fancy lunches we normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to have. Our recent favorite restaurant is just behind our house, “Saigon Seafood Harbor.” We have the great pleasure of having the parking lot to the Pacific East Mall in Richmond as our backyard. Well “Saigon” isn’t in the mall, it is next to it. So we drove there. It is huge, with lots of parking. And they need it because this place hops. For lunch, go no later than 11:30am, for dinner, no later than 5:30pm. Or you will be cranky.
I read this fab review which explains some things. I knew the food was Hong Kong, but I had trouble explaining why it was called “Saigon” because I didn’t know.
First of all, I had to explain to everyone that Saigon does not refer to what is now Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, but a district of Hong Kong known for its fish markets.
Fish is right. One whole back wall near the kitchens are a dozen or so large fish tanks filled with tons of large animals ready to eat. There has been one giant lobster in there for a couple weeks. He’s huge. I bet he has a name like “Big Ole Red” or somethin’…
Whatever. Nice place, lots of bamboo chairs and tables, and giant fishies painted on the walls. And is generally very crowded. But the wait staff is numerous, efficient and friendly, and as helpful as they can be.
Now to the food. I love chow mein, but I’m used to regular ole chow mein with big noodles, some vegetables and a squishy meat of your choice (Henry’s Hunan in San Francisco does the absolute BEST). But this aint that. Order Combination Chow Mein Hong Kong style. The thin noodles are fried and then oodles of goodies are delicately placed on top in a rich gravy. Has some random seafood in it as well. And as per my recent resolution, I’m trying to eat more random seafood. And I did! Check out that thing in the lower left, with the stuff on it, like little flower petals. Cuttle fish? I dunno. But I ate it. Big ole piece of it. As well as a yummy scallop. Yummy I tell ya. I’m a changed woman. The chicken is divinely textured thinly cut breast meat, the bbq pork is exquisite and nice large shitake mushrooms are almost like meat! But the deal is, the noodles are fried. Where the gravy touches them they begin to soften, but it is the contrast in textures, and a lot of oil that makes this dish fantastic. I could eat it every day but I won’t because I want to live long time.
We also had the Peking Chili Pork Tossed Noodle. Same noodles as the Chow Mein, but not fried. The Peking Chili was rich and thick. Really good, sweet texture, with yummy strips of porky pork. And then. We just had to order the Fook Kin Fried Rice. Get it? Yeah, yeah. Ha. But yeah, had to get it. But I wanted to make sure there were no frogs tongues or fish maws in it so it all predicated on whether we could get what the meat ingredient was out of the wait staff. I asked him and he said “Meat.” I asked what kind of meat he said “BBQ.” Alright then, I’m feeling adventurous. We ordered it. Fook Kin Fried Rice. It wasn’t what I expected! A bed of naked fried rice covered with a rich gravy with stuff in it. I saw egg, some vegetable, and some meat things. Didn’t look BBQ to me, but it sure looked good. And The Examiner says “Fook kin fried rice with egg white and dried scallops should not be missed.” So that answers what was in the stuff. It was very, very tastey.
You think I’m done? No way. Lunchtime is also Dim Sum Time at Saigon. And boy did we Dim some Sum. I don’t know what the stuff is really, they give you a little report card and I just checked some stuff off. But lookie! (I stole the menu so I could write this stuff out properly, cuz I’m pretending to be food critical and all.) We had Pan Fried Chives & Shrimp Dumpling, Deep Fried Shrimp Bean Curd Skin Roll & Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings. Wow. These were goooood. The Shrimp Dumplings were in a very thin rice wrap and were tender and squishy, very mild flavor, while the Fried Bean Curd Skin Shrimp thingie was shrimpy goodness on the inside, and crunchy flakey almost pastry like goodness on the outside. Delish! Um, and I shouldn’t have to mention that Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings are the best snack on the planet. Period. They’re deep fried and then smothered in chili peppers. So good.
This is a particularly friendly place when it comes to some of the other hard core Asian restaurants in the Mall. And really good. Go eat an adventure.
Saigon Seafood Harbor
3150 Pierce Street (just off Highway 80 at Central Richmond exit), Richmond, 510-559-9388. Open Monday-through-Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Inexpensive to moderate.