Saigon: Delicious Vietnamese Cuisine in El Gouna
When in El Gouna, be sure to eat. A lot.
Dine out whenever you can; even if it’s all three meals a day, because this Red
Sea resort has some of the finest cuisine this reviewer has tasted in Egypt.
Take Saigon, for example. We’ve heard rave
reviews about this Vietnamese restaurant all the way from Cairo, where patrons
have complimented the restaurant sumptuous authentic cuisine at moderate
prices. And even though Cairo 360 reviewed it earlier this year, we couldn’t resist another visit to see if it met our high expectations.
Located at the far right side of Abu Tig
Marina, Saigon offers outdoor and indoor seating, though we were politely
informed that their outdoor seating – simple wooden chairs and tables on a
wooden terrace platform – required advance reservations; so we opted for the less
breezy indoor seating.
Decorated in subtle Asian accents such as a
rich red theme and small statues along the dark marble counter separating the
tables from the kitchen, Saigon’s interior is as quiet as its waiters and
Vietnamese hostesses, who explained the menu items to us kindly and charmingly.
For appetisers, we started with two
versions of their spring rolls: the raw version known as summer roll (37LE) and
the fried version (37LE). The fried version can also be ordered in a bowl with
glass noodles and shredded cucumbers for 75LE. The fried spring rolls arrived
hot, slightly oily but pleasantly chewy with a side bowl of sweet and sour
sauce mixed with chilli seeds. Frankly, the spring rolls’ addition to the
noodles seemed pointless, as you have to eat each separately so you’re not
blending the flavours. However, the glass noodles were absolutely delicious;
especially when mixed with the soya-molasses sauce that came with the raw
Speaking of which, we can’t stress how mouth-watering
the raw spring rolls were. Thin pastry
wrapped around shrimp, lettuce and rice created a flavour that revived this
reviewer’s taste buds and left us drooling until the main course. Our
companions’ orders of glass noodle soup (32LE) and fish soup (37LE) arrived
steaming hot and in moderate portions, though the flavours weren’t as exciting
as our experience had been.
For our main course, our order of fresh
seafood with vegetables (98LE) was a big mistake. We’d fallen victim to the
menu’s tantalising photos; what we got in return was a few shrimps, mussels and
indiscernible seafood bits swimming in a plain fish sauce that lacked exciting
spices and flavour.
Disappointed, we spent the rest of the
evening staring yearningly at our companions’ choices of beef with bell peppers
(78LE), which arrived on a steaming hot plate with a side of fried rice (30LE).
The pork in brown sauce (85LE) fared just as well, and was grilled just right
in a perfectly juicy sauce with a side of grilled green beans.
Too full for dessert, we opted for soft
drinks (12LE), a bottle of Heineken (22LE) and a glass of white wine (33LE) to
wash the meal down.
Aside from its
surprisingly high prices (our messy seafood dish definitely didn’t deserve its
98LE price tag); Saigon fell terribly short in terms of its service. It took a
shocking one and a half hours for our appetisers to arrive, even though the
restaurant wasn’t at full capacity. Had
we been starving hungry, we may have left, but we’re glad we stayed; if only
for the tantalising summer rolls.