Friday, September 29, 2017

Simply Sinbad / Sinbad's Sweets

Sometimes, learning about products to write these little intros is harder than others.  Like, when a company doesn't seem to exist, but is a near match to one that does.  Which is the case with "Simply Sinbad".

I had a package of little baklava bites, with the "Simply Sinbad" brand on them.  I went to look them up, and couldn't find ... anything really.  Just the Instacart page for Costco.  But I found plenty of information on "Sinbad Sweets", a company that makes, among other things, classic triangle baklava. And a huge baklava assortment, with all sorts of options like chocolate drizzled orange syrup flavored baklava, rolled baklava covered with sliced almonds and chocolate, "basket" shapes with pecans or almonds instead ... but no bites.

I dug and dug, and finally found that Sinbad Sweets introduced the baklava bites for grocery and convenience stores in 2013.  Why they changed the brand name I do not know.  I got my package a party where the hosts shopped at Costco, so, clearly they distribute there.

Anyway, they turned out to be great.  Hence why it worth the research to me!
Baklava Bites : Top View.
"Hand-crafted mini baklavas are perfect for both long time baklava lovers and first time tasters. The combination of decadent flavors and handmade preparation truly make our baklava premium. Our fresh almonds and walnuts are rolled in between layers of delicate, buttery fillo pastry leaves. Next, they are baked slowly to perfection for a great artisan taste and crisp texture. The final touch is the drizzling of our honey syrup to provide just that extra bit of decadence."

The bites come individually wrapped in packages with two pieces each.  Note: each piece is actually more than one bite, unless you have a really big mouth ...

I didn't really detect the drizzle of honey the description says they have, but, I also think that would have made them soggy?

They weren't soggy at all, instead were perfectly crispy.  Very impressive how crisp they were for a packaged product.
Baklava Bites: End View.
As you can see from the end view, they are hollow, a rolled item, rather than tranditional layered form.  This meant there was only one layer of chopped nuts (a mix of almonds and walnuts), but they were sweet and crunchy, and I prefer to pistachio versions.

The fillo was certainly the star though, buttery, flaky, crispy.  Again, impressive for a packaged product, and I'd gladly consume these again.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream

Update 2017

Humphry Slocombe hasn't ever been my top ice cream choice, but, when I had a chance to try an exclusive new flavor, of course I took the opportunity.

The flavor, Hong Kong Milk Tea, is a collaboration between Top Chef Finalist Melissa King, Whole Foods, and obviously, Humphry Slocombe.  It is available only at Whole Foods, only in NorCal.

The inspiration for the flavor was the traditional milk tea Chef King grew up drinking every morning, mixed with cookies (for some texture, but also, tea and cookies is just far more fun than tea alone!).  It is made with local Numi black tea (Breakfast Blend) and condensed milk as the base, with the aforementioned cookies (almond cookies, made in house at Humphry Slocombe) mixed in.
Hong Kong Milk Tea.
Well, yup, it tastes like milk tea.  The black tea flavor was obvious, although not quite as intense as drinking a real strong milk tea.  It was sweet and creamy, just like, well, milk tea.

The almond cookie surprised me.  I knew it was in there, but I expected either chunks of cookie (a la classic cookies and cream) or swirls of cookie (like the cookie swirls Ben & Jerry's incorporates), rather than just integrated cookie crumble.  There were certainly no chunks, and nothing you could pick out as "oh, that was a cookie", but rather, it just added a texture and slight crispiness to most bites.  Really fascinating, actually.

Overall, I enjoyed it.  Good flavor, nice balance of sweetness, a bit of texture.  I tend to go for more texture and creamier ice cream, but, this was good.

Oh, and, uh, it was caffeinated, which I expected given the black tea base, but was far more caffeinated than I was anticipating.  Or maybe I just had way more than I realized (this was my first scoop, above)?  I was buzzing off the walls soon after, and the zing lasted with me for a few hours.  Uh, oops?

Update 2014

Over the past few years, I've tried out a number of flavors of ice cream from Humphry Slocombe, both at their first ice cream shop in the Mission, and more recently, at their new location in the Ferry Building.

As you can see below, I wasn't impressed with Humphry Slocombe in the past.  I'm not sure if their ice cream has changed, or if I have, but I have now found some flavors that I really do like, thus, an update is in order.  I'm glad I gave them another try!
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Single Scoop, $4.
This is the first flavor that I have really, really liked.  The ice cream was creamy and melted perfectly.  The base flavor was peanut buttery, strong enough to taste, but not overwhelming.  The chocolate was tiny flecks rather than chips, plentifully distributed throughout.  It tasted like a peanut butter cup, just as ice cream, and so much better.  When I was younger, I used to always get Flurries or whatever they were called at my ice cream shop of choice, and always went for vanilla mixed with peanut butter cups.  It reminded me of those, except, soooo much better.  I'd definitely get this again.

Update: I got a pint of this.  The texture never seemed quite right.  It was too hard at first, and even as it melted, it never got very creamy.  It seemed to just go from hard to soft, with no nice phase in-between.  The peanut butter flavor wasn't strong enough.  Meh.
Secret Breakfast, Single Scoop, $4.
It had been a few years since I tried Hupmhry Slocombe's signature flavor: Secret Breakfast, aka, bourbon with cornflakes.

The flavor of the base ice cream was good, boozy, but sweet.  But the texture of the ice cream was grainy, starting right when I got it.  Even as it melted, it just never got creamy.  I almost think something had gone wrong with this batch, or perhaps it had gotten heat exposed accidentally?  The cornflakes, while cute, were soggy.

Overall, there are things to like about this, but the bad texture of the ice cream and the soggy cornflakes put it into gimmick territory for me.

Update: I also got a pint of this.  I knew I hadn't really liked it before, but I also knew it is their signature flavor, so I had to give it another try.  The base was again very boozy.  There is no doubt in your mind that this contains alcohol.  But, the cornflakes were again soggy and just kinda nasty to me.  The only thing I liked about this flavor is how soft it was, and how nicely it melted.  I think the high alcohol content helps make it meltier.
Harvey Milk & Honey Graham, Single. $4.
This flavor was originally made in honor of Harvey Milk day, but it turned into such a hit, that they added it to the regular line up.

The base is "milk" flavored ice cream, aka, plain, not "vanilla".  It has homemade graham crackers throughout, and is infused with blackberry honey.

The base was creamy, it melted really nicely.  It further convinced me that something just went strange with the batch of Secret Breakfast I had a few days prior.  This was the consistency of high quality ice cream.  I love mix-ins, so appreciated that the graham crackers added a ton of crunch, and I was fond of how many there were, and the size of the bits.  But this ice cream was all about the honey.  In a serious way.  The honey was too strong for me.  So sweet.  The graham cracker helped balance it out a bit, but it wasn't nearly sufficient.  I wouldn't get this flavor again.

Update: And I got a pint of this.  Wow, so sweet.  So very, very sweet.  Just completely in your face with the honey, which is a nicer sweetness than generic sweet, but wow, just too much.  I did however love the graham crackers in it.  There were tons of chunks, they were all varied sizes, some just little bits, others huge ones worth digging for.  I polished off this point in record time, even though I was dying from sweet overload, just because I was having too much fun going for the chunks.  If the sweetness was just toned down a little bit, this has potential.

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  • Bananas for Beach Blanket Babylon: This is a limited edition flavor to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Beach Blanket Babylon.  I'm not familiar with Beach Blanket Babylon, but of course I wanted to try something special.  I was told it was a roasted banana and apple ice cream with frosted peanuts, a bit of a strange combination, but apparently this is directly tied to Beach Blanket Babylon characters.  Anyway, the banana flavor was very strong in this, too strong for my taste, so I'm glad I just asked for a sample before committing to a scoop.  I didn't want more of it, but the frosted peanuts sounded really good.
  • Cinnamon Brittle: The cinnamon flavor was strong, but the dominant flavor was ... cayenne!  It had some serious heat to it.  I liked the crunchy brittle, but it was a bit too spicy for me, or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it.
  • Jam + Toast: now this was strange.  Like Secret Breakfast, another "breakfast" themed flavor, aka, one you can feel totally eat guilt free for breakfast.  Or at least that is how I prefer to think of it.  The jam I think was blueberry.  And, there were indeed tiny bits of … well, bread inside, for the "toast" component.  I almost liked this, but, the resulting texture was just a bit too weird.   It was like breadcrumbs in my ice cream, so no longer smooth and creamy.  But flavorwise, very interesting.
  • Oolong + Fortune Cookie: this had a lovely oolong flavor, very subtle and delicate.  But the fortune cookies were in huge chunks and soggy.  Interesting concept, but the mix-ins ruined this one.

Prior Review, Published 4/19/12

I know people love this place.  I know they use Straus Organic Dairy for their ice cream base, source organic, local ingredients whenever they can, etc, etc.  They also make crazy flavors (ZOMG!  Bourbon and corn flakes!)  But honestly, there ice cream has never really impressed me.  The flavors just aren't that great, and the consistency is just that of generic, grocery store, standard ice cream.  Throw in the price tag associated with artisanal ice cream and ... I just don't get it.

These are my tasting notes compiled from the past year or so.  Multiple tastings are denoted inside brackets.
  • Bittersweet Chocolate: Same as salted chocolate but without salt, not as interesting, but nice and creamy.
  • Black Sesame: Good sesame flavor, enjoyable.
  • Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee: Nice coffee flavor.  [ Decent coffee flavor] [ Really strong bitter coffee flavor, not sweet, I like it ]
  • Brown Butter:  Just sorta sweet, not very distinguishable flavor. [ Pretty flavorless, but nice and creamy. ]
  • Candied Ginger: Had nice big chunks of candied ginger in it. Very refreshing. [ Nice ginger, refreshing ]
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter: Nicely loaded up with peanut butter, not bad.
  • Cinnamon Brittle: Sweet cinnamon ice cream with big chunks brittle, very pronounced cinnamon flavor. [ Not all that much cinnamon flavor, not creamy ] [Nice cinnamon flavor in ice cream, enjoy the crunch from the brittle. ]
  • Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip: Not any cream cheese flavor at all. Very disappointing.
  • Crème fraîche: Definitely tasted like crème fraîche, would pair well with certain desserts.
  • Dulce de Leche; Sweet and creamy.  My favorite of any I've tasted.
  • Elvis (the Fat Years): Banana ice cream with bacon peanut brittle.  Ice cream base didn't have much banana flavor at all.  The bacon peanut brittle was salty and nice, gave a great crunch, and was intense bacon flavor.
  • Harvey Milk and Honey: Has little chunks of honey graham crackers in it.  Not very creamy, chunks not very significant, kinda just sweet ice cream.
  • Honey Thyme: I didn’t taste the thyme at all. Sorta sweet from honey. Not very creamy.
  • Malted Milk Chocolate: Just chocolate, don’t get malt flavor at all.
  • Malted Dulche De Leche: Sweet, didn’t really get the malted part, nice and creamy, didn’t really like.
  • McEvoy Olive Oil:  No real olive oil flavor at all.
  • Mexican Chocolate: Sorty spicy but not much spice detected, not very interesting.
  • Peanut Butter Curry: Peanut buttery curry ice cream with peanut butter curry cookie pieces.  These flavors didn’t work for me, this was super strange!
  • Rum Raisin: Very boozy, do not like [ nice and boozy, plump raisins, good consistency. ]
  • Salted Chocolate: Nice chocolate ice cream but overrated [ really excellent salty flavor ] [ insanely salty, too much ]
  • Secret Breakfast: Bouron flavor nice [ nice boozy flavor ] [ meh, just boozy ] [ boozy, decent ] [ no flavor, no booze, nothing ] [ Boozy, creamy, not bad ] [ Not very boozy, but nicely creamy ]
Non-Ice Cream
  • Peanut Bacon Brittle: Ok, decent amount of peanuts, but not much bacon detected. [ not very good ]

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Special Event @ Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant

Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant is a restaurant that I frankly don't understand.  The location is a bit odd, tucked away on 1st St between Folsom & Harrison, a very busy street, but busy with cars headed onto the Bay Bridge.  It is not much of a walking neighborhood, and certainly wasn't when Local opened several years ago, and none of these cars pull over.

And yet, they aim to be a casual neighborhood restaurant.  They are open for weekday lunch, weekend brunch, and dinner every night.  The menu isn't extensive, nor fancy, just the basics like pizza, pasta, a handful of mains, a few apps.  Not really a menu I was drawn in by.  A decent wine and cocktail program.

No real reason for it to stand out.  Which, it never has.  I remember visiting once years ago, and thinking "Meh, nothing interesting", and commenting that it was pretty pricey for what it was.  I went to an event about a year ago with pizza from Local, and again, thought "Well, that was ok pizza, but for nearly $20 for a small pizza, why?"

But, my apartment building had an event hosted there, so I had a chance to check it out for free.  Why not?

We occupied a large space in the middle of the dining room, and food was brought out as ready, mostly appetizers and finger foods from their party menu, plus plenty of the signature pizzas.

I was not impressed with the experience.  It was very loud.  Food was brought without a description.  There was no cutlery.  It just didn't seem all that well equipped to handle our group.

That said, the food was delivered hot and fresh, the staff were friendly, and my glass of Pinot Noir was actually really quite good.

Would I go back?  Nah.  Was it awful?  Nah.  My opinion is basically just as before.  It is fine, but not notable in any way, and kinda pricey for what it is.  But, they seem to be succeeding, so I clearly am just missing something.

To Share

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Smoky chicken skewers | roasted shishito peppers, black garlic aioli. $7 (Happy Hour) $12 (Dinner)

Our group started with a big bowl of fried chicken bits, with a smaller bowl of roasted shisitos, and a little bowl of black garlic aioli.

There were no serving utensils provided, and none of us had cutlery.  So ... people grabbed with their fingers.  Eww!

Since we didn't know what anything was, I just saw crispy fried things with creamy sauce, and grabbed one.  The crispy coating was tasty, not oily, nicely seasoned, but inside was chicken.  It was moist enough, and probably good if you like chicken (people seemed to like it), but I don't like chicken, so this wasn't for me.

The menu says the dip was aioli, but it tasted like butter to me.  The texture was that of soft butter, and it wasn't creamy in the way aioli is.  It wasn't really pleasant to dip into.

The roasted shisitos were pretty standard.

Overall, a pass for me, but, I don't like chicken.
Local Burger Slider.
"Caramelized onion, aged cheddar, lettuce, heirloom tomato, pickles."

Next came platters of sliders, in 3 varieties: fried chicken with slaw, classic cheeseburger, and veggie.

Since I don't like chicken, I stayed away from the fried chicken ones.

I took what I thought was a regular beef cheeseburger, but it turned out to be a veggie slider, a bun stuffed with a few slimy roasted veggies (onions, bell peppers), and romesco sauce.  It wasn't very good, and the table quickly turned into a pile of discarded sliders.

On the 3rd or so round, I was finally able to grab a beef slider, a smaller version of their burger, a menu staple at all meals.

The slider roll was the same as the veggie one, nice enough looking, shiny top, black and white sesame seeds, toasted, but it wasn't particularly fresh tasting.

The patty was ... odd.  I bit into it, and it was sorta ... chewy?  But, when I looked down, it was pink.  I was impressed that it didn't *look* overcooked, as it is hard to have a slider come out less than well done, and, I'd call this medium.  Except, the texture was just strange, it wasn't juicy, and the flavor wasn't very good.

The aged cheddar was nicely melted on though, the lettuce was fresh and crisp, and the pickles flavorful and crunchy.  And each had two pickles!  It also had plenty of mayo, which I of course liked.

It was really strange how well executed it was (melty cheese, fresh veggies, toasted bun, pink meat), yet it wasn't actually good.

$16 for a regular burger at dinner, and $50 for 10 sliders on the event menu.  I guess it was good for a $5 item?


Pizza is the star attraction at Local, served at all meals.  The open-ish kitchen features a wood burning pizza oven.  The menu has only 5 pizzas, although you can also create your own.  Our group received 3 types of pizza (Margherita, Salsiccia, Funghi).

The pizzas were always brought out and placed in the same spot on the table, e.g. sausage on one end, margherita in the middle, and mushroom on the other, and it was impossible to get to anything not right in front of you, which meant I wasn't ever able to try the one I really wanted, the sausage.

I'm not much of a pizza girl, but it was decent.
Funghi. $19 (Dinner only).
"Porcini cream, wild mushrooms, arugula." 

The pizza that kept coming in front of me was the funghi.  I do like mushrooms though, so I wasn't upset to try it.

But, it wasn't very good.  Hot and fresh, yes.  The crust, crispy enough on the bottom.  But I didn't care for the cream sauce and cheese, nor the heavy mushroom flavor.  It tasted like fake, cheap, truffle oil, in a way that permeates everything.  And there was too much cheese.

Along with the veggie sliders, many people left slices of this discarded on their plates.  I was actually pretty surprised by how much people just left behind, as that isn't really normal behavior at events.

$19 for a pizza of this size and quality seems way too high.
Margherita. $9 (Happy Hour) $15 (Dinner).
"San marzano, basil, fior di latte, extra virgin olive oil. "

I finally managed to snag a slice of the Margherita, the one I remember thinking was decent before at an event.

And, it was much better, certainly the best thing I ate.

The crust was crispy, the sauce tangy and well seasoned, the fior di latte just barely melted and flavorful, and the torn basil fresh.

A very simple Margherita, but, good enough.
Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Taro Milk Tea, Santa Cruz Boardwalk

During my recent visit to the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk, I indulged in ... too many things.  It started with my first Klondike bar in years (actually, quite good!), at the company picnic.  And then, uh, a Blue Bunny sundae cone (which I've reviewed before), also at the picnic.  And then ... an absolutely insane, but not tasty, apple pie funnel cake with whipped cream and ice cream from the Boardwalk concession stand.

But I wasn't satisfied.  The funnel cake was so bad it left me wanting ... something.  I really did want a soft serve cone, but, I needed to rush to the return bus, and didn't actually want to bring a cone on board.  But I recalled seeing a coffee shop that also had bubble tea on the menu, and I figured this was a great choice.  I could get a bubble tea, throw it in my bag (since it would be sealed), and bust it out in an hour or so on the bus, once my blood sugar started crashing from all my other sweets wearing off.

This plan did not work.  Mostly, because, well, this wasn't really a bubble tea shop.
Coffee Shop.
The menu was mostly made up of espresso drinks, hot, iced, and made into frappes.  They also had a Numi hot tea selection.  And bubble tea, listed on the menu, as, bubble tea.  Bubble tea was offered in 4 flavors: thai tea, green tea, taro, and mango, with or without tapioca pearls (strangely, for the same price).

I opted for taro milk tea, as I adore taro.  With pearls.  When I ordered, I was asked if I wanted whipped cream on top.  This should have been a sign.  Whipped cream on a bubble tea?  Hmm.  How does that work with the sealed cups they use?  Answer: it doesn't, they don't actually have one of those machines.
Taro Milk Tea?  $5.95.
This was not a taro milk tea.  It was more of a taro smoothie I suppose?  Not necessarily a bad thing, but, not what the menu said, and not what I thought I was getting.  I didn't actually want a blended icy beverage at this point.

It started with ice.  There was also milk (real milk, not non-dairy powder like much bubble tea).  And I guess taro powder at some point, but I never saw it.  That all went into a blender, just like they used for their frappes.  After being blended, it was poured into a plastic cup on top of the boba, before being topped with generic whipped cream from a can.

It was a total mess when it was handed to me, the contents dripping down the sides, as the person pouring it didn't do a great job actually getting it in the cup.  She kinda cleaned it up.  A regular dome lid with a big hole in the center was stuck on top.  And then it was handed over, without a word.

I asked if they had straws.  I was pointed at the regular straw dispenser on the side.  "Do you have wide straws for sucking up the boba?", I inquired further.  The worker just shrugged, said, "Those are our straws".

Well, ok then.  No idea what I was supposed to do with the boba.

So, it was a blended smoothie, in a regular cup, without a straw to suck up my boba.  It needed to be consumed then, not stashed in my bag as I planned.  I had no choice but to drink it as soon as I got on the bus.

It ... was not good.  It did not taste like taro.  At all.  It was horribly, cloyingly sweet.  The base was sweet, and the boba was absolutely covered in sweet syrup.  I couldn't suck up the boba, obviously.  They were standard size pearls, and I had a regular straw.  This does not work.  The flavor was just ... awful.

It also was not blended well.  It did not have ice chunks at least, but, it was entirely separated.  And the whipped cream?  Meh.  Just stuff from a can.

I did not like this.  But, I was stuck on a bus, with nowhere to throw it out, or even set it own.  The ride was going to be about 2.5 hours.  I couldn't really just hold onto it for that long.  So, I had to drink it.  I hated it.  So sweet, so horrible tasting.  Do not get this.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Miss Saigon

Update Review, September 2017

I first reviewed, and visited, Miss Saigon back in 2013.  I didn't return until this year.  Back then, I had some decent enough Vietnamese salads, an excellent taro smoothie, and my first experience of Vietnamese desserts (although, they were out of the ones I wanted, so, my dislike was somewhat swayed by not getting what I wanted).

I'm not really sure why I never went back, but, I didn't, until I found myself really craving the style of desserts I had in Sydney at Chat Thai.  Coconut milk, taro, strange mix-ins ... that is what I wanted.  And I remembered that Miss Saigon had those things.

I ordered ahead (using, OrderAhead), but showed up before my pick-up time, so it wasn't ready.  No problem, the very friendly staff member just made it on the spot for me.  The staff were very friendly and welcoming.  I like the family feel of the place, and I'd like to return again.
Che Thai. $4.
"Fruit with coconut and milk."

I've seen Che Thai described as "Vietnamese fruit cocktail", which, maybe is accurate?  I'd describe it more like ... a bunch of bubble tea toppings (except no boba) in a very sweet coconut milk?  Or, coconut milk and toppings soup?  I ordered it because it reminded me of so many of the creative Thai desserts I had in Sydney at Chat Thai, and, indeed, it is a Vietnamese take on a thai dessert.

I honestly had no idea what to make of this thing.  It was served in a cup, like a bubble tea, with a wide straw.  It was drinkable, with the straw, and when you did so, many strange things got sucked up.  But it also came with a spoon, and some of the ingredients inside were too big for the straw.

It was also ... crazy sweet.  The coconut milk base was over the top sweet.  The mix-ins were all sweet.  There was not a single slightly savory ingredient, no tapioca, no taro.  There was no salty component.  Just, sweet.  It was too much for me at first, honestly, and I found myself thinking, "Gee, this would be good with some corn in it, or shaved iced", which of course made me laugh, as I found those ingredients crazy the first time I had them in dessert.

I think this did have dairy milk (likely half and half, per my internet research) mixed in, as I ordered it when I had a cold, and, sadly, it made my throat react like I had dairy, which I was intentionally avoiding.

One quick note on packaging; just like when I picked up food previously, this made a horrible mess.  It was full to the top, with a lid that didn't seal, so, it leaked everywhere just carrying it out of the store.  At least they put it in a bag?  I was amused by the napkin though, as it was soaked already by the time I opened my bag, rendering it useless.
Che Thai: Inside.
There were so many things hiding in it.  I have no idea what most of them were.  This is why I love this style of dessert, it always fascinates me.

There was medium sized firm white cubes.  Irregular shaped green softer blobs.  Smaller red cubes.  Smaller orange cubes.  Yellow rectangles.  Large white bean-shaped things. Besides the bean-shaped things and the yellow rectangles, they all seemed like some kind of jelly?  The description just said "fruit", but I'm fairly certain that many of these items were not fruit.

Here are my guesses on what things were:
The white beans I'm fairly certain are toddy palm seeds.  I think the longer yellow pieces were either jackfruit, or not-very-ripe mango.  I could believe that some of the white cubes were young coconut meat or coconut gel.  The green things were grass jelly and the assorted mix of smaller colored cubes were rainbow jelly?  I somewhat expected lychee or longan, but I don't think I found any.  I was glad to not discover any durian.

To be honest, this is not a high brow dessert.  Sweetened coconut milk plus a bunch of canned fruit and jellies.  Hmm, maybe fruit cocktail *is* the right description, after all?

Anyway, I did somewhat enjoy this, once I added some crushed ice to water it down a bit.  It was a fun exploration of ingredients, but, overall, too sweet, and not quite my thing.  I'm glad I tried it though.

Original Review, September 2013

As I mentioned last week, I had the task of providing dinner for my group at work for a few days.  Since it was going to be takeout, I went for all cold items.  I didn't want to deal with re-heating food, or serving lukewarm, soggy food.

For one meal, I decided on Vietnamese, as there are a number of classic dishes that are takeout friendly, like cold salads and spring rolls.  I didn't have anywhere in mind, as last time I did this, I went with Out the Door, and it was good, but not amazing.  So I did some research, and discovered Miss Saigon.  The reviews were plentiful and strong, for everything but the spring rolls, and they had a fantastic sounding dessert menu.  So, I did what any crazy person does, and went to two places, supplementing the salads and desserts from Miss Saigon with spring rolls from Freshroll, as I reviewed a few weeks ago.  Yes, I could have gotten delivery, from a single restaurant, but ... that just isn't how I roll.  I wanted good food!

Anyway, Miss Saigon is located at 6th & Mission, just a few blocks from Freshroll, so it was easy to pick up both orders.  I don't tend to venture down much past 4th or 5th, so it was also uh, a cultural experience.

It is a simple restaurant, no fancy decor, but clean, and the furniture all matches.  No real personality to the place except ... the mannequin at the entrance.  I have no idea why they have a mannequin, but they do.  I wish I'd taken a photo of it.

The staff were friendly and pleasant taking my order, but I was not impressed with the service.  I placed my order, and sat to wait for my food to be ready.  It was brought out by the kitchen to the counter area pretty quickly, but then it just sat there, while the server did a bunch of other random things.  He even walked over and picked up my containers several times, and then put them back down, and did other things.  He wasn't helping other customers, but instead collecting dirty cups, wiping down counters, etc.  I assumed that some of my order must just not be ready, but nothing else was ever added to it.  I think it was ready a full 10 minutes before it was handed over to me, even though I was sitting there waiting, and one of my items had ice and was melting.  There was only one table seated in the restaurant since I was there mid-afternoon, so it wasn't that he was busy.  I was pretty annoyed by this, and still really can't figure out why he kept picking up my food and then ignoring it.

Anyway, the food was all solid, and some of the hot dishes did look good, so maybe I'd consider dining in, but I don't see any real reason to return otherwise.
Packaging fail: sauce from papaya salad all over the place, soaked through the napkins.
One thing I noticed is that when the server would pick up my containers, he noticed that one of them was leaking everywhere.  He wiped it down, and looked like he might try to do something about it, but then just put it back.  When he picked it up another time, it had leaked out everywhere again, so he again wiped it down, but did nothing to fix the situation.

When I opened my take out bag, everything was completely coated in sauce.  There was a lake in the bottom of the bag, which was just a low quality thin plastic bag, so it also leaked into the larger bag I brought with me to carry my purchases.  The napkins and utensils provided were drenched in the sauce, the napkins unusable, the utensils sticky.  This was a really crappy container to package saucy food in, and they seem to do a lot of togo business, so you'd think they'd have decent containers.  Grumble.
Taro Smoothie With Boba.  $3.75.
I've been craving taro milk tea for a while now.  Basically ever since I had the amazing one from Quickly months ago, and my craving was not satiated by the awful one from Out the Door a few weeks later.  When I saw taro boba smoothies on the menu, it was what made my final decision of where to get the food.  I wanted one, it was a hot day, and nothing sounded better than slurping up a taro boba!

The name "smoothie" concerned me a little, as I didn't quite know what to expect.  When I saw a blender and ice get pulled out, I knew it wasn't going to be the milk tea I was expecting.  I'm not sure what else went into it, clearly something milky, something sweet, something taro flavored, and obviously the boba.

It was really nicely blended, full of tiny little bits of ice, like a slushy.  Not what I was expecting, but I actually liked it even more.  It was almost like a milkshake.  It was creamy like one too.  It was sweet, but definitely not too sweet, and the taro flavor was good.

It was loaded up with boba, hard to see in this picture, but there was actually tons of it.  Perhaps a bit too much.  By the end, I was very sick of it.  The pearls were a good size, and the straw perfect for sucking them up.  They started out soft, but actually got kinda icy as time passed, since they were immersed in the icy mixture.  That was fairly fascinating, I liked them soft at first, I liked them as they got a bit chewy, and I liked them once they got icy.  Kinda fun to enjoy it as it evolved!

Overall, this was pretty good, and I really enjoyed it.  I still wish I knew what went into it.  At $3.75, it was more expensive than the others I've had, but it did have more work put into it.
Goi Ngo Sen Tom Thit. $7.25.
This is a cold salad of lotus root, carrots, cucumber, shrimp, pork, ground peanuts, and rau ram.

I wasn't entirely sure what this was going to be, but I like lotus root, so I decided to try it.

The lotus was sliced differently than I've had before, I usually have it in disks, this was in strips.  It was crispy and fresh.  The carrots and cucumber were fine, and added some color, but did kinda overwhelm the salad in bites, as they weren't evenly distributed throughout.

The shrimp were small, poached, and sliced in half.  Not offensive, but not very good either.  I ate around the pork, as I don't like pork, but it was in thin strips.  I could taste it in the salad though, which I didn't like.  My own fault, for ordering something with an ingredient I know I don't like.

Overall, it was lacking in any real redeeming qualities.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't very flavorful nor interesting.  I wouldn't get again.

Priced slightly lower than the salads at Out The Door, but didn't seem as high as quality.
Goi Du Du Bo. $7.75.
When I lived in Sydney for a few months, I got totally hooked on papaya salad.  There was one place that had a version that came with caramelized bits of pork belly on top.  It rocked my world.

I've tried the papaya salad at many Thai and Vietnamese restaurants in SF, but have failed to find one that really packs any punch flavor-wise, or has the freshness I'm looking for.  When I saw that Miss Saigon offered 3 versions, including one with beef jerky on top, I was excited.  Would the beef jerky be like my caramelized pork? Surely it would be closer than all the tofu or shrimp versions I've had.

The papaya was fine, there were plentiful peanuts, and some beef jerky bits.  The beef was a nice change, but not nearly as good as my pork belly memories :)  It had good flavor, but wasn't crispy, nor really caramelized.

But overall flavor-wise, there was not much going on here.  Perhaps because all the sauce had leaked out?  Again, not bad, but not really good.  I probably wouldn't get again.

Priced at $7.75, it was on par with others I've had, but not as good.
 Goi Du Du Dau Hu. $7.25.
We also tried the vegetarian version, with crispy fried tofu on top.  The salad was the same, although it seemed to have a lot less sauce.

The tofu was awful.  Soggy, definitely not crispy, and totally soaked in oil.  Quite nasty.
Che Dau Do. $3.00.
You know me and desserts.  The highlight of my meals.  Their dessert menu sounded fascinating.  I was most excited for the "taro root with sweet rice and coconut" and the "yellow com and sweet rice with coconut".  I love taro, I love sweet rice, and I was fascinated by the idea of corn in dessert.  Sadly, they were out of those desserts, even though it was only mid-day.  Boo.

So I moved on to my next selections, including fruit with coconut milk.  Again, they were out of all of those!  The menu had about 10 desserts listed, but they only had 4 available.  One had ice cream, which didn't make sense for take out, one was a banana cake, which really didn't sound or look good, and then two others were things I'd never pick, but ... I wanted something, so I got them.

So first up, was this one, described as "red bean with coconut".  It was basically just some red beans, in a very milky soup.  Seriously, soup.  I guess it was sorta coconut flavored, but not much.  Maybe this is a traditional dessert, but I was expecting something different, more like red beans with a thicker coconut cream drizzled on top.

I wouldn't get again, but it was interesting.  $3.00 for a dessert this size was good, and it actually came in a container that sealed, unlike the salads, so the soup didn't spill everywhere.  Points for that.
Che Dau Trang. $3.00.
The other option available was described as "black eye peas with rice and coconut".  He said it was just like the taro or corn ones that I wanted, just with black eyed peas instead.

I dislike black eyed peas.  I don't like them in savory preparations, and I couldn't imagine liking them in dessert.  But I was desperate, so I went for it.

The coconut flavor was quite nice in this one, much stronger than in the red bean.  That part was good.  And maybe if you liked black eyed peas, they were good, but I hated them.  There wasn't much rice, but what was there was good.

I think I really would have liked the taro or corn versions of this.  Sadness.  If I return to Miss Saigon, I'd like to try those desserts.

Again, $3.00 for a dessert this size was good.