Damn, Amsterdam! Bigger Bites: Saigon Cafe

Despite its noto­ri­ety for being a town filled with ston­ers, the culi­nary delights in Ams­ter­dam are not rel­e­gated to Bit­ter­Ballen, which I did suf­fer through the last time I was there. Here’s the famed Dutch Kroket­ten in log form, straight from the infa­mous FEBO machines that mag­i­cally replen­ish them­selves. It’s like eat­ing deep fried sausage gravy, and not in the pleas­ant way.

This time around I tracked down a few spots out­side of Cen­trum so as to expand my din­ing options. On one par­tic­u­larly dreary day, I made it out to Lei­d­se­plein, the other touristy neigh­bor­hood besides the Red Light Dis­trict. [PRO-TIP: if you’re in Ams­ter­dam for more than three days (and when you’re there for that long, you don’t want to be stuck just in Cen­trum), just opt for a 7-day tran­sit pass. For less than 30 euros, you can get on a tram or bus when­ever you’re lazy. When the days are short and dreary and rainy, it’s easy to find your­self lazy].

So as I do on the few drab days we get in Vegas, I sought out my one true com­fort food: noo­dle soup. Found myself at Saigon Cafe. Despite its con­tem­po­rary mod­ern decor, the menu was clas­sic, with pho being the mainstay.

I started with the spring rolls, which had been my first deep fried option in Ams­ter­dam that trip that wasn’t frites. Inter­est­ingly, the Dutch word for eggrolls is loem­pia, which is dan­ger­ously close to the Fil­ipino word lumpia.

Any­way, these were pro­fi­cient and deep fried, though could have used a lit­tle more color on them and maybe had the heat on the oil they were fried in raised a bit for opti­mum crunch.

The pho tai nam at Saigon Cafe did its job. That is to say, it hit the spot for being warm, fla­vor­ful and full of noo­dles to slurp. The broth was fra­grant with clas­sic pho notes, such as star anise and five spice. The tai, or rare, thinly sliced beef, was raw enough to be cooked prop­erly in the hot soup. The nam, or flank, could have been cut slightly thin­ner, but it was still rel­a­tively ten­der. The accom­pa­ny­ing veg­eta­bles were a lit­tle weak, but I did find a lit­tle stash of Thai bird chilies under there that gave the soup some needed astrin­gent heat that Sriracha doens’t always deliver.

Pho Tai Nam, Saigon Cafe

Yeah, that’s right. I trav­eled all the way to Ams­ter­dam to eat pho. Some­times to find a lit­tle bit of san­ity while trav­el­ing, I find that eat­ing some­thing famil­iar helps me feel a lit­tle more nor­mal wher­ever I am.

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