Saigon Pearl (Versoix, Switzerland)

Sometimes one eats somewhere and feels a place has potential, but then somehow it falls flat. That was my experience with the Vietnamese restaurant Saigon Pearl in Versoix. It was not horrible, not at all, but it could have been a lot better. Let’s start at the beginning.

Table at Saigon Pearl
Ready for some Vietnamese food! (Note the absence of chopsticks)

I was interested in visiting because the Saigon Pearl actually boosts a vegan (not even vegetarian!) menu. By eating vegan at a place that has a vegan menu, I have the idea this shows the restaurant that there is an interest in vegan food. Positive reinforcement by money, so to say.

Spring rolls at Saigon Pearl
Spring rolls with soy sauce

So the vegan menu has 1 starter and 5 mains, but it was a bit unclear what was a starter and what was a main.

We went on a Saturday and it was extremely busy! I don’t know if during the week it is also so busy. The interior is casual and relaxed, with fitting Asian accents.

Noodles with tofu and vegetables at Saigon Pearl
Noodles with tofu and vegetables

For drinks I tried a coconut water, since I liked what I got in Aux 3 elephants and Vietnam in Paris . I got packaged coconut water, not the fresh stuff unfortunately.  The vegan starter is a plate of spring rolls. They were very crunchy, and the taste of the fried exterior completely overpowered the veggies and noodles on the inside. This spawned the theory that the spring rolls might have been refried.

Tofu with caramel sauce at Saigon pearl
The tofu with caramel sauce was served in a small pan, with rice separately

After we tried noodles with tofu and veggies, and tofu with caramel sauce. They were pretty similar, except that the caramel sauce tofu was served with rice. There were not many veggies in the noodles, but what was worse was that they were partially cold. So again, was this dish reheated in a microwave?  The warm parts were okay, but the cold bits were quite disappointing.

Tofu with caramel sauce and vegetables at Saigon Pearl
Tofu with caramel sauce and vegetables

There are also a few vegan desserts. We tried two, a “sesame ball”  and banana with tapioca pearls in coconut milk.  The “sesame ball” has a crusty, fried exterior and soft dough inside.  I liked it but it was very hard, and a bit difficult to handle. The banana with tapioca pearls in coconut milk was very sweet, and unfortunately the coconut is barely detectable.

Sesame ball dessert at Saigon Pearl
Sesame ball

Saigon Pearl has the feeling of a family eatery, with a casual atmosphere. The service was friendly, and I really think the food has potential. Unfortunately, the prices didn’t match the experience, in this case. I saw a lot of positive reviews online for Saigon Pearl, so I like to think that this was a fluke. But a good restaurant should serve consistent quality, in my opinion. If I ever go back, and I might, because I want to believe, and my experience changes, I’ll update this post.

Banana dessert at Saigon Pearl
Banana with tapioca pearls in coconut milk
Type of place: Vietnamese restaurant
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: yes

Website (French, English): http://www.saigonpearl.ch

Vietnam in Paris (Paris, France)

Table setting at Vietnam in Paris
I can eat with chopsticks, but I am sure my technique is lacking!

As the name already suggests, Vietnam in Paris is a small Vietnamese restaurant in Paris, more specifically in the 2nd arrondissement. I was in Paris for the weekend with my mom, and we stayed in a hotel nearby. I had read about Vietnam in Paris before, so I was interested to check it out and my mom kindly agreed to join 🙂

Sign with "100% vegan" in Vitetnam in Paris

This restaurant is relatively small, and the interior is very nicely decorated, with beautiful art on the walls. The (fully vegan) menu is simple and small, there are 5 starters, 5 main courses and 6 desserts. I prefer a small menu, it reduces the stress of choosing, which is something most vegans are not used to since there are usually only a few options if they go out for dinner! Also, in a smaller place like this with 1 cook,  1 person can most likely not cook many dishes very well (yes I have watched a lot of restaurant shows…)

Vegan nems at Vietnam in Paris
Nems!

We arrived quite early for Parisian standards, which was good because we didn’t make a reservation and the restaurant filled up completely! There was one very large group though, which took up over half the seats available, so I am not sure if the restaurant is full every day. I won’t be surprised if it was, the food is delicious!

Vegan Vietnamese crepes at Vietnam in Paris
Vietnamese crepes

The service started relatively fast, even though we were not asked for drinks. We started with the nems and crepes. I felt the sizes were a bit off; the crepes were quite a bit smaller than the nems. Both tasted very good. After we got the “plat du jour”  and a curry. The main course arrived quite fast after the starter.

Curry with tofu and rice at Vietnam in Paris
Curry with tofu and rice
Plat du jour at Vietnam in Paris
Plat du jour, or today’s special; tofu, rice and vegetables

Unfortunately after this the service started to slow down. We weren’t offered a second drink and had to wait very long before we could order dessert (most likely due to the large group) Since several desserts looked good I wanted to try the “thé gourmand” which is a tea and 3 small samplers of dessert but they were all out. Instead I opted for a taro pudding.

Taro pudding at Vietnam in Paris
Taro pudding!

Overall the experience was very pleasant, the food was very good, and the prices very reasonable. It was unfortunate that the service was lacking a bit,  it was most likely due to the large group. I guess it would have been better if they would close the restaurant completely when a group that large would enter, but I don’t think that it is something that would occur that often that it would be a deterrent.

Type of place: Vietnamese restaurant
Completely vegan: yes
Vegan desserts: yes

Website (French) : https://www.facebook.com/vip.saveursduvietnam