Had the opportunity in the past couple of weeks to visit both of Santa Fe’s Vietnamese restaurants, Lan’s and Saigon Café:
Lan’s – inauspicious location buried in the corner of a Cerrillos strip mall, but they’ve done a nice job with the interior, lining the walls with large-scale photos of Vietnam. Pretty good, fresh flavors in the chow, from the spring rolls to the noodle dishes to the other entrees, perhaps a tad bland, but far from bad. My big complaint was the “cheap factor”: there was some fairly blatant cost-cutting going on here, notably the conspicuously small portions (I usually complain that portions are too *big*, but this was ridiculous), and the use of filler ingredients (I have never, ever seen so many bean sprouts in a dish in my life). Service was a little uneven, with one waiter having trouble keeping up with the 2/3 full restaurant.
Saigon Café – also in a strip mall, a little more in-town on Cordova. The portions here were much more generous across the board. The chow was a little more “polarized”, with some pretty good dishes and some fairly meh. Highlights: very good spring rolls, tasty steamed pork buns, great flavor to the beef and fish ball pho. Lowlights: the very greasy stir fries just tasted like amateur hour.
So in short, peaks and valleys at both, and I can’t say either is setting the world on fire, but I think I’ll be spending more time and dollars at Saigon Café.