West Valley City • Pho, the noodle soup with clear broth and a variety of meats, is one of the most popular Vietnamese cuisine menu items along the Wasatch Front. Saigon Hot Pot in West Valley offers many options that will help Utah diners realize there's a lot more to Vietnamese food.
Saigon Hot Pot's menu includes bÃºn bÃ² hu, a spicy beef noodle soup ($6.50 small, $7.50 large); rice porridge ($5.50 small, $6.50 large); rice plates ($7) and lo-mein ($7).
But the main focus here is on the hot pot, a metal bowl divided into two sections and filled with four possible varieties of broth, including the spicy and sour Korean-style broth, earthy vegetarian mushroom with a lemongrass kick and a passable but bland house original choice (which can be ordered as spicy). House pineapple rounds out the options.
The hot pot works well when ordered by a group, with the price of $3 per person for broth, and then a la carte charges for raw ingredients. The larger the group, the more variety you can enjoy. The broth is delivered to the table in the metal bowl and placed on the tabletop butane burner to boil. From there, you cook your own ingredients in the broth everything from vegetables to meats and seafood and then build individual bowls of soup over a selection of vermicelli ($2.50) or egg noodles ($3).
I've found the custom of going out to a restaurant, paying someone to bring you raw ingredients and then cooking the food yourself, to be common world-wide. I've paid for the privilege of searing meat on a hot rock in Aruba, boiling live shrimp in Hong Kong and fondue-ing my own entree in downtown Salt Lake City.
Frankly, I'm not a fan of this method of dining. Even with a solid knowledge of raw ingredients from meats and seafood to all manner of vegetables the likelihood of cooking it all to perfection with unfamiliar equipment while sitting in a crowded dining area conversing with friends is nearly impossible.
The hot pot at Saigon presented a number of cooking dilemmas. Many of the vegetables, such as the Chinese broccoli ($2) and all of the mushroom selections ($2-3 each), required a significant amount of cooking time to bring them to an edible state. On the other hand, the meats and seafood needed the gentlest touch to keep them from becoming overcooked mounds of rubber-like protein. So, the success or failure and ultimate popularity of the hot pot is largely up to diners themselves.
What Saigon Hot Pot does deliver is fresh ingredients and solid flavors. The spicy Korean broth added depth to both bok choy ($2) and napa cabbage ($2), while at the same time delicately spicing shell-on shrimp ($4), scallops ($7) and even shrimp balls ($3). Although the raw mushrooms (portabello, enoki, woodsy shiitake and meaty king oyster) came out looking unimpressive, they were the clear favorite of everyone at our table regardless of the broth flavors they were cooked in.
We chose to cook our thinly sliced beef tenderloin ($5) and beef meatballs ($3) in the vegetarian mushroom soup (along with more fresh mushrooms and other vegetables) and found that the lemongrass finish of the broth elevated both meats. Fresh and fried tofu ($3) are also available and could be substituted for a protein source for a completely vegetarian option.
If you're dining single or just don't trust your cooking skills, Saigon Hot Pot does offer the option of ordering a hot pot noodle bowl ($7.50 small, $8.50 large) prepared for you in the kitchen with the same choice of vegetables and proteins.
As the preparation and delivery of the hot pot ingredients tableside can be a bit slow, start with the spicy papaya salad with beef jerky ($5), which tasted cool and refreshing, thanks to a kicky dressing.
Then watch as the main meal ingredients are delivered on a rolling cart. Our server (the same young man on two visits) was happy to guide us through the entire hot pot process from ordering and preparing and offered suggestions when asked.
Saigon Hot Pot is located in a culturally diverse strip mall on Redwood Road in West Valley City. If there's no hot pot cooking when you walk in the door, you'll likely be greeted with the strong, unpleasant scent of bleach. This combined with the wallpaper matching the color of Sriracha sauce, along with an odd assortment of musical instruments in one corner and more dried flower arrangements than fill The Quilted Bear, might have your senses confused for a moment but don't let this dissuade you.
If you're seeking an adventurous dining experience, give Saigon Hot Pot a try for a Vietnamese hot pot cooking journey that won't soon be forgotten.
Salt Lake Tribune restaurant reviewer Heather L. King blogs at http://www.examiner.com/lunch-in-salt-lake-city/heather-king. Send comments about this review to email@example.com or post a response at facebook.com/nowsaltlake.
Saigon Hot Pot
Food • HH
Mood • Hh
Service • Hh
Noise • bb
Saigon Hot Pot focuses on the Vietnamese hot pot cooking method where seafood, meats and fresh vegetables are cooked by boiling in flavorful broths right at the table.
Location • 3411 S. Redwood Road, West Valley City, 801-906-0452
Hours • Monday through Friday 11 a.m. â 10 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. â midnight, closed Sunday
Price • $
Children's menu • No
Liquor • Beer
Corkage • N/A
Reservations • No
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • Yes
Onsite parking • Yes
Credit cards • Visa and Mastercard only