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Saigon (Chinese) in Richmond -- good dinner

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Saigon (Chinese) in Richmond -- good dinner

Joel Teller | Feb 22, 2004 04:34 PM

We had a nice dinner at the Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant near the 99 Ranch Market in Richmond. Despite its name, it does not serve Vietnamese food, nor did any of the staff appear to be Vietnamese. We had these items (numbers in parentheses are the numbers from the menu):

Chiu Chow Soya Duck (#526). This is braised in soy and is very moist and a bit fatty. Served on a bed of crunchy roasted peanuts. $9 for half a duck.
Roasted Squab (#529): Very gamy, almost liver-like flesh. Moist, still warm, lots of meat on the bird. Also had roasted peanuts on the platter. $12 for a whole squab.
Salt and Pepper Prawns. Not on the menu, but "no problem" when we asked for it. A bit greasier than the best versions I've had, it was less spicy, with a lot of chopped garlic instead of the usual green chili. Very tasty, nicely crunchy shells, juicy bits in the shrimp heads. I think it was about $9.
Steamed Tilapia with Preserved Turnip (#553). A whole fish, perfectly steamed with salty-crunchy preserved turnip on top, with cilantro, scallions, ginger, soy sauce forming a delicious juice. $9.50.
Chinese Broccoli with Wine Sauce (#704). The stems were sliced into thin slices, very green and crunchy. $8.50
Among dishes I saw on other tables was scallops with brilliant green sugar snap peas (not snow peas). Maybe next time.

We brought in wine and opened it ourselves; they provided wine glasses. Corkage charge only $4 -- or maybe that was the rice charge (I was not paying the bill). The total was $56 before the tip, and it was plenty of food for four adults plus a three-year-old.

However the best part was the "scene." We got there about 6:30 on Saturday night and they were filling up fast. It's a big place, about fifty tables, most tables for eight or ten people. The clientele was 99% Chinese. There were a few Caucasians -- guests at tables of Chinese folks. Most of the tables were families, with lots of older folks. Our table was the only all-Caucasian group in the entire place; even that's not accurate, as the three-year-old is adopted from China.

A large bank of fishtanks is on one wall, and other seafood is on display. The servers were excellent, very friendly and accommodating. It took a while for the food to come out but considering the size of the operation it was understandable. There were people waiting for tables while we were finishing up, but instead of hustling us out they comped us a hot dessert soup (coconut milk, tapioca, and bits of taro). It seemed like half the Chinese population of the area was in there chowing down -- then as we left, we saw the other half, jamming the small lobby and waiting outside in the rain.

There is a down side. The interior is remodeled since it was Banana Garden, but they kept the flooring -- large ceramic tiles. The ceiling is low, and there are no drapes or tablecloths. So the noise was deafening. I could only talk with the person seated next to me by turning to them and shouting in their ear -- it was futile to talk across the table. If we go back, it will be early in the evening (to beat the rush) and with a group of people we don't want to talk with.

Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant
3150 Pierce Street, Richmond (near the 99 Ranch Market, but not in the same parking area)
510-559-9388

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