Since I had such a lackluster experience at a Viet-Chinese restaurant the other day, I'm not sure what inspired me to want to go to another one. But we had just gotten home from a cartrip, and just wanted something quick and easy in the neighborhood.
Chino Sai-Gon was formerly Saigon Kitchen, and like the old inhabitant, Chino serves from a Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai menu. When we were there, the place was fairly quiet: a couple of families, us, a latina who ordered five or six entrees (they looked good, too), a parking garage attendent eating white rice and drinking hot water.
We ordered pot stickers (6 for $4.95), charcoal chicken ($7.50), a bowl of wonton soup (large, $5.95) and wonton egg noodle soup ($5.95).
The charcoal chicken came first. It's a classic play-with-your-food handroll experience, and one of my favorite things from the old Saigon Kitchen menu. This included a large oval plate of sweet and spicy grilled chicken covered in sesame seeds, a large salad plate with lettuce, cilantro, diced carrot & daikon, mung bean sprouts, and thin rice noodles, and of course, the rice paper circles to wrap everything in.
While some places (Pho Van pops to mind) have elegant hot water sleeves to soften your rice paper, Chino gives you a giant plastic bowl of steaming water. It works fine, it just takes up a lot of space... especially when you consider that the handrolls take up the whole table by itself.
So, you dip the rice paper until it's pliable, you fill it with stuff, and then roll it up like a salad roll (or a burrito), and dip it in the accompanying peanut sauce. Yum. If you like playing with your food, I definitely recommend this: it's generous and tasty.
Pot stickers were another big success. These came straight from the pan, toasty brown on several sides, and really rather big, stuffed full of some unidentified meat, probably pork. They were the best pot stickers I've had in recent memory.
So, of course, we hadn't even finished our appetizers and the soup comes, and at this point, I'm almost full. Our table is completely full of dishes.
Now you might be wondering, what is the difference between wonton soup and wonton egg noodle soup? Well, the former has a spicier broth, and a lot of iceberg lettuce. Both have the wonton and the bbq pork and the occasional shrimp. The wonton egg noodle had a nice chickeny broth and thin egg noodles, and it came with its own small salad plate of cilantro, leaf lettuce, sliced jalapeno and quartered lime.
The soup in the end was fine, just nothing to write home about. It really could be a meal in itself.
So. The menu is huge, with over 150 items on the Chinese-Vietnamese menu, with just about everything under $10. The thai menu has an additional 17 items. Menu items are in English, overwhelmingly, so don't bother looking for pho or bun, look for beef noodle soup or vermicelli noodles. Still, some things are unclear: hot & sour soup: Vietnamese or Chinese?
We will definitely return, especially for those potstickers and charcoal chicken. But the rest of the menu is a crap shoot. I'll update this entry as we try new things.