At some restaurants, you get a glimpse of the chef if he or she comes out of the kitchen to greet privileged guests. At Miss Saigon Restaurant, your server is your chef – and she’s a pretty amazing woman.
Mylinh Nguyen, a Hawaiian native of Vietnamese descent, turns out some delicious Asian cuisine from her kitchen in the Miracle Mile building that once housed Culinary Capers. Then she serves it to you, dressed in high heels and, the night we visited, a somehow-pristine silky ecru skirt and blouse ensemble, with hair and makeup that somehow were model-perfect even after hours in a hot kitchen.
Chef Mylinh seated us at a booth and the friendly bartender brought us our drinks as he tag-teams with the chef when she’s busy in the kitchen. We had a moment to gaze around this remodeled space – bright red seating, a glitzy full bar, mirrored disco balls and a massive portrait of our chef on a hillside in Vietnam, which she visits to bring home the most authentic spices and ingredients for her dishes.
There’s also a boxing photograph of her husband and business partner, world-champion fighter Dat Nguyen, who owns the gym across the street.
Soon our chef returned to explain the menu and answer our questions. There are only 21 food items, including desserts.
Unlike some Asian restaurants that hand you a daunting 30-page menu with a dizzying array of thousands of unfamiliar options, this one is printed on one piece of white copy paper.
The selections change slightly, depending on what’s in season, what seafood treasures the chef finds and what she feels like cooking. Friday is Lobster Night after a shipment of live Maine crustaceans arrives, and the lobster specials run into Saturday if they don’t sell out on Friday.
We visited on a Thursday so our mouths could only water about the prospect of Lobster Pho next time.
We started with two appetizers – the App Combo ($15) and the Ahi Tuna Salad ($10). The combo offers a trio of spring rolls wrapped in rice paper, egg rolls and tempura shrimp rolls, all so tempting it’s tough to pick a winner but the spring rolls were terrific and the accompanying peanut sauce – well, the chef should bottle and sell this stuff. The salad was a mountain of cubed, seasoned ahi tuna tossed with sweet-sour marinated onions and greens. We cleaned the plate.
For my entrée, I ordered the Seafood Pho or noodle soup ($17), and my companions ordered the Filet Mignon Shaking Beef ($20) and the Seafood Fried Rice ($16). All the entrees were excellent. The shrimp, crab and mussels were fresh, tender, meaty and not overcooked. The fried rice was flavorful but not salty like the Chinese or Thai version can be. The pho noodles appeared to be hand-cut and, though tricky to eat, tasted great in the savory broth.
Shaking Beef refers to the cooking method – shaken, not stirred – so it’s a steak stir fry, but gently shaken so the outside browns and gets lightly coated in yummy sauce while the center remains a tender medium-rare. It’s served with a crisp, green salad and we would highly recommend this dish.
Everything was fresh, served hot and seasoned perfectly with layers of flavor from herbs and those special spices from the markets of Vietnam.
We thought we were too full for dessert so we asked for our check, but Chef Mylinh wasn’t having any of that. She brought a plate of complimentary Fried Bananas and a round of shot glasses of sake to our table. The bananas were excellent – steaming hot, sweet with a delicate batter.
Dinner for two at Miss Saigon with appetizers and drinks will run about $75 to $85 plus tip. It’s the perfect spot for a weeknight meal when it’s not so busy and the chef has the time to dote on you. On weekends, she brings in kitchen prep help and some help serving, but still serves many tables herself.
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The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.
Miss Saigon Restaurant & Sushi Bar
- Hours: Monday through Saturday, 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Closed Sunday
- Beverages: Full Liquor Bar
- Address: 737 22nd Street, Vero Beach
- Phone: 772-766-9493