Cuisine With Claire: Don't Miss Miss Saigon
By Claire Jen '10, Staff Writer
If you’re willing to brave venturing past CVS (gasp!), Miss Saigon is literally 50 feet away (I thought it was closer?). The place is a fairly decent Vietnamese restaurant in the center of Amherst. If you are feeling nervous about stepping outside the Amherst bubble, don’t worry: it’s worth the trip, and the menu has numbers corresponding to each undecipherable and unpronounceable dish.

Thinking that it would be a nice, quiet place perfect for treating a Southeast-Asian Studies professor (what better than Vietnamese food?), Maryam Khan ’10, Kate Berry ’12, Anjali Anand ’11 and I piled into a tiny booth in the corner, the only table not jam-packed with other regulars and generally happy looking patrons (even though it was only a Tuesday night!).

The décor is warm but not super memorable, and the restaurant is locally owned and operated. Christina Oettel-Flarherty ’10 used to work at the establishment when it first opened and informed me that the family that owns and runs Miss Saigon actually owns a local market on Route 9 as well. However, the staff seemed ruffled by the plethora of customers and seemed to be more concerned with efficiency rather than personability (not bad, if you are starving and will beast anything that is put in front of you, but not the best if you are looking for menu suggestions and personal, attentive wait service).

Their pho is generally great: warming, comforting and generously portioned. Oettel-Flarherty recommends that whatever you order, be sure that you put copious amounts of lime and Thai basil in the concoction to give it some real zest and flavor. Professor Doreen Lee, our TYPO-ee really liked the papaya salad (cooling and spicy) and vegetarian eggrolls (crispy without the five pounds of grease in which other places seem to cook them). Finally, Oettel-Flarherty praises the avocado milkshake (ask for it even if it’s not on the menu), saying that it provides “the perfect amount of refreshing.”

While every dish at Miss Saigon (or at least the ones we tried) was quickly prepared and enjoyable, the prices at the joint do not correspond to your usual cheap, quick and easy Vietnamese food. Although I’d never pay $10+ for a noodle bowl back home, Miss Saigon serves the best (and only) Vietnamese pho in Amherst — delicious enough to try at least a couple times (it’s not like the rest of the restaurants on the strip are much more affordable anyway).

Overall, the food was tasty and the bustle of the restaurant pleasant but not overbearing. I will go back — but not until I am absolutely dying for some serious noodles. If not desperate for some noodle-y goodness, however, I’m not sure I’ll make it the extra 500 feet past Antonio’s.

Issue 13, Submitted 2010-02-02 21:03:10