Monday, April 6, 2009

Saigon, Otemachi

It's no secret around the EOITwJ offices that we like 'dad jokes' or 'oyaji gags', in today's parlance. That's why translating the name of this place as 'The Last Grunt' is so amusing right now. (最後んっ.) Good to the Last Grunt? My friend J. had the fortune, I won't say if it's good or bad, to marry a lovely woman who believes there is no such thing as a clever pun. In fact, he had to admit his agreement to that statement in order to gain access to their wedding ceremony, but that's a different, longer and more Islamic story. I digress.

Nothing wrong with Saigon, my friends. We squeezed into nearly the last table at 11:45, and the waiting customers gave mute, pathetic testimony to the place's popularity on our way out. The food and staff seem appropriately Vietnamese, the taste is OK, the prices are normal. I could complain that they kicked us out toot sweet after we finished, but what the hey, it's Spring.

You go here, you'll be getting into some pho. Now, I've only been to Vietnam once, but the soup at this place honestly reminded me of it. It had an honest chicken taste - nothing refined for home use, but more like they had been boiling a chicken with its heart and liver and bits intact. I got the version with bean noodles rather than the wheat noodles that the expert eaters (repeat customers, all of them) ordered; live and learn. The spring rolls come in three varieties - fried, steamed and fresh - and my set also came with a steamed one, thick and gummy in the dim-sum style, and a fried one, thick and crunchy and filled with pork. Certainly the done thing is to order the 'noodle set', which gives you noodles and 2 spring rolls for Y1000, rather than my Saigon Set (Y1260) which gives you...noodles and two spring rolls. And a superfluous salad and bowl of rice.

Despite the quantity, I was strangely unfulfilled. Perhaps the authenticity of that simple, honest chicken soup awakened a deeper longing in my soul? A longing for travel, an escape from the complexities of life in the metropolis? A simpler existence among the perfumed pagodas of Hanoi?

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