Dining with Natalie: Pho Saigon

As a native of culinary melting pot Malaysia and the daughter of a restaurateur, UG student Natalie Voo knows her food. Every other week, she reviews Groningen’s student-friendly dining scene. This time: Pho Saigon.

There are a few hallmarks of an authentic Asian restaurant. This can include no-nonsense, curt service, a child doing homework behind the counter, and whispers of potential tax evasion. In Pho Saigon’s case, it was the obvious penny-pinching decisions (such as the simple interior) and a workforce that appears to be a tight-knit family affair. 

We began our culinary adventure with vegetarian spring rolls, which undoubtedly stole the spotlight. Crispy, delightful perfection. The secret seems to be in the rice paper wrappers – crispier and lighter compared to regular spring roll wrappers. As for the service, it’s efficient. Our waiter, bless his heart, was so awkward, but in an endearing kind of way. 


For the main course, we order beef pho and a Vietnamese pancake which is accompanied by a mountain of herbs and veggies. Initially, I found the pancake to be quite underwhelming on its own, even with the fish sauce dipping. But there are gargantuan bottles of hoisin and sriracha on the table for good reason, and they really transformed the dish from an ‘I guess?’ to a ‘Hey, not bad!’

Now, onto the pho. Overall, a thumbs up from me – the beef portion was generous, boasting cuts that had the right amount of lean and fat. The broth, however, was bordering on watery. A bit more spice and some beefy oomph would have added more depth. Still, it’s a solid dish. Oh, and did I mention the portions? Huge. Could potentially feed a small village even. 


Sometimes sacrifices have to be made for good food, and that’s also true at Pho Saigon. Fortunately, I deem the sacrifice to be worth it. Now, what’s this sacrifice, you ask? Well, it seems Pho Saigon has either skimped on kitchen ventilators or decided to forego them altogether.

While the restaurant itself is a delightful symphony of fragrant spices, be warned: that aroma clings to you and your clothes like wet sand to your feet after a beach stroll. If you don’t mind smelling like a walking bowl of pho and star anise (which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t the end of the world), consider it a friendly heads-up.

Overall, what a gem of a restaurant! Nestled near the university, Pho Saigon offers a tantalising array of authentic Vietnamese delights, each portion more generous than the last, and all at prices that won’t break the bank. What more could you ask for? Well, perhaps better kitchen ventilators. But hey, you can’t have it all, right?

Pho Saigon, Oude Boteringestraat 8

An affordable, unassuming Vietnamese restaurant serving a wide range of authentic dishes. For two people we only spent €42.


Food: 8/10
Presentation: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Ambience: 6.5/10



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