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Le Saigon de Manila

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Le Saigon de Manila

Ann Fisher | Aug 24, 2003 12:32 AM

With the chowdaddy still recovering in the DesPlaines nursing home, the chowpuppy and I have been dutifully undertaking our chowhound responsibilities in the neighboring communities. Today's find was Le Saigon de Manila, just east of the Golf Mill Mall. Storefront in a strip mall (right near REI for those of you familiar with the area). Wonderful big neon sign for Pho, complete with steaming bowl, in the front window. Big room with a bar running the full length. Quiet when I've been there, but clearly one of those places that fills up later in the evening(Karoke 9 to midnight Friday and Saturday).
It appears to be Filipino owned, but promoting its Vietnamese menu more, perhaps because there's more of a market for Vietnamese food than for Filipino. The first two pages of the carryout menu are Vietnamese, with "Manila Specialties" on the back. Some items appear identical, e.g. "Tom Rang Muoi: Salt and pepper shrimp with shell (spicy)" on page two and "Salt and Pepper Shrimp: Spicy, shell and head-on" on the Manila Specialities page. Plenty of room for the adventurous eater: "Balut: Boiled embryo egg", "Pho tai sach: rare steak and tripe, noodle," "Crispy Pata: Pork hocks boiled in spices and deep fried."
We were not adventurous. I'd tried the Pho with meatball and the fresh spring roll on an earlier trip. Fine, but not as good as I've had elsewhere--and I've never even eaten pho on Argyle. But today we took carry-out back to the nursing home to eat on the patio with friends and it was very good. Cha Gio/Fried egg roll was fresh and crisp and delicious. The Thit bo lui and Thit heo lui, Saigonese charbroiled skewers (beef and pork) were excellent--flavorful cubes of meet just fatty enough to crisp up a little/ Com Ga Xao: Stir fried chicken, mixed vegetable, with steamed rice was a real sleeper and maybe the best thing we ate. It looked like nothing--some white chicken in a clear sauce with mostly celery--but was wonderfully seasoned. It reminded me of the "Chicken (or shrimp, or whatever) with vegetables" you often find in Thai restaurants. The Bo Zao Sa Ot: sliced beef sauteed in garlic, lemon grass and chili was very hot (though I'm a wimp on these things) but not to the point of obscuring some otherwise pretty interesting flavors. Ga Xao Cary Nuoc Dua was a curry dish with chicken and lots of onions--again very good. Finally,we had the Bun Tom Nuong: Grilled shrimp with thin rice noodles, and that's all it was. The shrimp were fine, but otherwise the dish was greatly improved by adding some of the sweet and a little hot sauce that they'd given us four or five little containers of, I think for the spring rolls.
We didn't try dessert. Does anyone know what ube, ube macapuno, or buko avocado ice creams are?
We fed ourselves well for less than $10 a person, with leftovers to bring home. I'd definitely go back and recommend a trip to anyone in the area.
Le Saigon de Manila
Four Flaggs (sic) Shopping Center
8211 W. Golf Road
Niles, IL
847 663-8323.
closed Monday, otherwise noon to 10 or later.

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