Sunday, March 29, 2009

Saigon Deli

I have somehow managed to neglect a rather important food on this blog, the cheap and delicious Vietnamese sandwich the Banh Mi. They are easy to find, fantastically inexpensive (often around $2), and quite frequently come in a vegetarian tofu version.

I recently went to the Saigon Deli in the Little Saigon area of the 12th and Jackson to try their take on this staple, and had an overall pleasant experience. The deli is a work of art, full of tiny packages of brightly colored foods tightly wrapped in cellophane or steaming on a hot tray. I ordered a tofu sandwich, my meat lovin dining companion got a BBQ pork sandwich, and together we got a Styrofoam tray of tofu spring rolls and one of the many mysteriously wrapped packages that lined the shelves. I chose a tight foil wrapped log in blind hopes that it was full of some sort of sweet coconut rice.
I judge a Bahn Mi based upon a few things:
  1. Is the bread fresh? The Bahn Mi is made on a full miniloaf of French bread, and when it is stale the sandwich becomes a hard to eat, boring beast that mercilessly nicks the insides of the mouth.
  2. Is the tofu fresh? The usual (less desirable) type of tofu used in these sandwiches tends to be dry and deep fried. I prefer it to be freshly cooked and soft instead of chewy and fried.
  3. Is there too much mayonnaise on the sandwich? A common sauce solution is mayonnaise and Sriracha , and I don't like it when there is too much mayonnaise.
  4. What temperature is the sandwich? They most definitely shine when they are warm, and are least interesting cold from a refrigerator.
  5. The rest of the fillings... these tend to include julienned carrots, fresh cilantro, spears of cucumber, sometimes thin rice noodles, pickled radish, thinly sliced onions, and fresh jalapeno. The lamer versions tend to come with a leaf or two of cilantro and a few wimpy strips of carrot and cucumber, whereas the stellar versions are packed with veggies, pickled and fresh, and a bush of fragrant cilantro.

The tofu sandwich at Saigon Deli broke the mold a bit in that the tofu used had been simmering in a rich red tomato sauce as part of their hot deli items. The tomato sauce took the place of the mayo/sriracha combination. The bread was semi fresh (but was freshly toasted, which added bonus points), and the innards were plentiful. It felt hearty and was definitely tasty, and I enjoyed it very much even though it was a bit of a departure from the standard.

The silver log ended up being a disappointment, as it was packed full of some sort of homogenized light beige meat product. Oh well.
Not sweet coconut rice

The tofu Banh Mi was $2.00, and the pork was $2.50.

Saigon Deli
(206) 322-3700
1237 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98144
Saigon Deli on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 9, 2009

Villa Victoria

UPDATE: Villa Victoria has closed its doors. Here is a re-post of Premuim-T´s comment that alerted me to the fact:

Naomi of Villa Victoria has closed her storefront, but she still does fantastic catering. Last fall I attended a wine-tasting dinner that she catered and it was fantastic. She has a blog:

(Thanks T for sharing the unfortunate news!)

Villa Victoria is a cute little tamale shop in Columbia City. It is tiny- just barely enough room to walk in and peruse the case and order, and possibly, if the shop is void of other customers, to sit along the window at a narrow bar. But in general the place is suited for taking your food away.
Delectable glass case
They have plenty of vegetarian options, starting with jalepeno cheese tamales. They are tasty, but heavy on the masa and light on the filling. And as I write this, I just realized that I don't know whether they use meat juice/lard in their masa. Hmm. Going to have to find out.

Another standard item in the case are little cheese and onion enchiladas. They are made from corn tortillas and smothered in an authentic pepper sauce.
One also has the option of ordering outside of the case, which includes giant delicious looking burritos. We saw many being made as we ate, and they were huge and succulent. They have a tofu adobe burrito that I am looking forward to trying one of these days.

The sides at Villa Victoria are excellent. Each of their homemade salsas are delicious, as is their guacamole (both of which can be purchased in larger containers to take home). They also make some super good greens.
For dessert, they have some Mexican wedding cookies, which look good, and Chocolate Truffle Cookies. I bought a chocolate truffle cookie, and was a bit dissapointed to find it to be dry and cake-y and neither rich nor particularly chocolatly. With a name like "truffle cookie," and a deep coco brown color like it had, I would expect a serious chocolate encounter. Oh well. I know some people would prefer it this way.

Villa Victoria
(206) 329-1717
3829 S Edmunds St
Seattle, WA 98118

Villa Victoria on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ali Baba

Ali Baba is on Broadway just north of Pho Cyclo, and I’ve walked past it many times admiring the tempting plastic window display of crinkle cut fries and gyros.

Finally went into to eat, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the vegetarian section of the menu dominated the reader board, and that there was a list of about a dozen delicious looking vegetarian fillings for a warm pita sandwich. I was jonseing for falaful in particular, but the other choices included fried cauliflower, spinach, fava beans, and many more.
I got the full meal, which came with a choice of salad, fries or rice, and I got the salad. My dining companion ordered the fries and upon tasting them realized I had made a mistake. They were sprinkled with some sort of delicious and unusual subtle seasoning and I could have eaten a whole plate.
The falaful was freshly fried and delicious, and the sandwich came with the usual ice burg, parsley sprinkles, sliced raw onion and a remarkably un-salty (in a good way) garlic yogurt sauce all wrapped in a fresh, soft, warm pita.

I love going in to a restaurant and finding more than a tiny handful of choices suitable for a vegetarian, and this place excelled in that department.

Ali Baba
(206) 860-6826
408 Broadway E
Seattle, WA 98102

Ali Baba Enterprises on Urbanspoon