I often get asked and love to provide recommendations to friends, family and strangers regarding where to dine in Kingston. Given the vast number of notable options throughout the city, I often struggle with my answer, while this is especially true when recommending a restaurant specializing in the mixed bag of Vietnamese, Cambodian or Thai cuisine. Kingstonist has tasted our way around and celebrated the city’s finest restaurants within this broad category, from Pat’s Restaurant to Mekong, Mango to Cambodian Village, we’ve certainly done our best to explore popular options as well as those that are off the beaten path. Up until today, we’d yet to register a proper review for a place that should need no introduction: Saigon Delights.
The original Saigon Delights on Bagot Street was established in 1992, and claims to be the city’s first Vietnamese restaurant. Since then, it has spawned new locations on Division Street in 2001, and along Gardiners Road in 2003. All locations are family-owned and operated. I recently sat down at the Bagot Street location, which is tucked away beside the busy downtown bus station just south of Princess. Considering the constant action on the street with people coming and going, it should come as no surprise that the wait staff and cooks are experts when it comes to fast and efficient service. For instance, our orders were taken and appetizer delivered within two minutes after we had sat down, while our mains were less than five minutes behind. This is fantastic news you should keep in mind when you find yourself downtown and in need of a fast, delicious and affordable meal in record time.
First up was the Jay Yaw (#3), $6.20, for three of Saigon Delights’ famous deep-fried spring rolls, which are made from scratch daily. They are filled with a deliciously seasoned mixture of minced pork and shrimp, wrapped in rice paper and served with Nuoc Mam. Notice the bubbly texture of their exterior, which offers an amazing crunch. These were piping hot when they arrived at our table, and as noted above, we only had to wait two minutes from the time we placed our order to having these mouth watering beauties arrive. I’ve often boasted about the high quality spring rolls at Mekong, but Saigon Delights’ version was so good that they’ve got me seriously reconsidering my favourite Viatnamese restaurant. Saigon Delights knows these are a favourite amongst diners, so much so that they boast that they are “Kingston’s Favourite Spring Rolls” with over 1.5 million sold to date. I believe it.
As we were finishing up our shared order of spring rolls, our main dishes were promptly arriving at the table. First up was Ga-ri Sun (#13), $10.60, which is listed on the menu as a ‘Saigon’ staple. This is a simple but popular spicy stir-fry, of chicken and bok choy, done in green curry with coconut milk that is served over a bed of rice. The tofu version rings in just a little less at $9.95. This dish was recommended to me as the spiciest menu option, although halfway through my meal I was far from feeling the heat. This had me reaching for the spicy chili sauce at the table, which provided the desired amount of zip. That’s all to say that the heat level here is far from overpowering, and you can certainly generate additional spiciness with a few tablespoons of magical red sauce. No complaints here, as the portions were generously fair, and the amount of protein, veggies and sticky rice met my expectations.
My dining companion opted for the Gom Sow Ga-ri Yaang (#17), $11.50, which is a chicken, shrimp and mixed vegetable dish in a mildly spicy yellow curry that is served over a bed of rice. This is dish is listed as being mildly spicy, which is probably a fair rating, although I didn’t find it had much heat at all. So again, perhaps my tolerance level for spicy food might be higher than the average persons, but you certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if you ordered this savory dish. Just look at the fantastic colour provided by the celery, green and red peppers, which are further accentuated by the yellow curry. I mean, you can practically taste how good this is right through your screen.
Saigon Delights is undeniably famous amongst Kingstonians who’ve ate their way throughout the city’s finest Vietnamese, Cambodian and Thai establishments. What the downtown location lacks in decor, they make up for and then some with the fastest service in the city. And that’s no exaggeration. More importantly is the menu, which may be small in comparison to competitors, but it covers the essentials from pho soup to the city’s best (too good to share) spring rolls, Vietnamese-style crepe and curries. I’ll be back again soon.
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