Strolling around Vero’s Downtown Arts District, poking into the cute shops and galleries or checking out a nearby festival can make the stomach rumble, and that’s the predicament we found ourselves in last Saturday, walking up to Saigon Sushi just before noon.
Waiting for the doors to open, we couldn’t remember how long Saigon Sushi had been in its 14th Avenue location. But since we also could not remember anything else being in that building, we concluded the restaurant had been there a long time.
Greeted at last by a friendly hostess, we were seated in a quiet booth in the corner of the empty dining room, but it wasn’t empty for long. Lunch patrons began streaming in, parties of four, six or larger. By the time we departed the place was packed and bustling with people and servers hoisting trays of colorful, aromatic Asian food. Presented with our menus, we giggled for a moment at the functional-but-unadorned white office binders we held in our hands. “Is this a meeting, or lunch?” I wondered. Inside, we found a dozen or so menu pages tidied away in clear sheet protectors. We guessed the system is efficient and allows for frequent additions and changes. For example, there are no lunch specials on Saturdays, so that page was not in our binders.
After we settled on what we’d like to try and ordered, our server brought three tiny dishes of a palate-pleasing seaweed salad with cubes of citrus, cucumbers, julienne carrots and sesame seeds in a light vinaigrette. A healthy alternative to the generic complimentary basket of fried chow mein noodles, and we enjoyed it.
For appetizers we ordered the Fried Calamari ($9.99) and Shrimp Sumai ($6.99), which are dumplings that taste a bit like fritters and are served either steamed or fried. We ordered ours fried and they were delicately flash-fried, tasty and not greasy. The calamari was excellent, served with a tangy sweet and sour sauce.
Cloudy skies and showers put me in the mood for soup and I opted for a bowl of vegetable soup ($3.99), a steaming-hot bowl of delicate broth, crisp bean sprouts and fresh greens. Along with the soup I chose a Dragon Roll ($10.99) to share, as I knew one of my companions shies away from raw fish and I hoped she would enjoy the roll packed with crunchy tempura shrimp, avocado, asparagus and rice, topped with three kinds of roe and drizzled in a slightly spicy sauce. It was delicious.
My companion who does love raw fish ordered a larger version of the Seaweed Salad we were teased with ($4.59) and the Tuna Tataki ($10.99), a lovely presentation of sushi-grade tuna, lightly seared and served cold on a chilled platter. The tuna was incredibly fresh and mild, and she thoroughly enjoyed her seaweed salad.
Our other companion ordered the Volcano Chicken ($10.99), which was excellent. We were immediately impressed with the generous portion, then impressed again with how the chicken was prepared. Barely coated in a light tempura batter and deep fried, the chunks of chicken breast were tender and did not have a heavy friend taste. Served over a bed of steamed broccoli and tossed in slightly spicy “volcano” sauce, this dish would be a winner for the member of your party who is not inclined to order sushi, but who wants something a bit more imaginative than chicken teriyaki.
Overall we enjoyed a very satisfying lunch. We can certainly see why Saigon Sushi is a local favorite.
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Our reviewers dine anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.
- Hours: Lunch – Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.; Dinner – Monday to Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.; Saturday, Noon to 9:45 p.m.; Closed Sunday
- Beverages: Beer & Wine
- Address: 1866 14th Ave, Vero Beach
- Phone: 772-299-5997