By Sandy Leung
SANDY RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS
If you happen to be craving some pho, noodle soup or Vietnamese cuisine and you're nowhere near the Richmond or Sunset area where all the GOOD asian food is, don't fret! You can check out this nice little restaurant in the Financial District that’s on the same block as the illustrious Transamerica Building called Sai's Restaurant.
I recently tried their Crab Meatball Noodle Soup and you should too! Traditionally known as "Bun Rieu", this GIGANTIC bowl of hot, sweet, sour and slightly spicy tomato broth is filled with crab meatballs, deep fried tofu pieces, sliced tomatoes, red onion, the typical Vietnamese green accessories (cilantro, green onion), and last but not least, the white rice noodles.
The crab meatballs seemed to have real crab inside of them and did not taste like imitation crab meat at all. The meatballs were pretty tender and they paired well with the tangy tomato broth. The hot savory soup was perfectly delicious and had a very pronounced tomato flavor that’s not overpowering. The sweet and sour flavor is decadent and the slight spiciness really gave it a good lil’ kick to your palette.
On the downside, the deep fried tofu pieces were not as fresh as tofu usually can be; they lacked a bit of moisture in the inside. The white rice noodles were hard to eat since they kept slipping off the chopsticks. You may experience a bit of a splatter but if you keep your mouth close to the bowl, you shouldn't have to experience any sudden let-me-take-my-emergency-Tide-To-Go-Pen-out type of situation.
I wasn't able to finish the whole bowl so I took 1/3 of it home, which always bodes well since you can save on some money for lunch the next day. Just heat up the soup, and dump some cooked pasta, vermicelli or any random noodle laying around, some slices of Spam (fine, if you can't stand Spam, then Ham or Tofu) and a cracked egg into it and Voila!; you get yourself another flavorful meal! The cost was about $11 ($13 with tip) so that’s pretty standard and reasonable for downtown SF prices.
Dinnertime on weekdays around 5 or 6pm is a good time to go; when I went, there was plenty of tables and the noise level was low. If you are looking to grab lunch there on a weekday, I would highly recommend getting there early otherwise you will run into the NOTORIOUSLY long lines that are typical of this wonderful city we call San Francisco. I once tried to go on a weekday at 12pm and the restaurant was completely full and there was about 8 people ahead of us, with the line hardly moving. As for parking, you can try your luck at street parking or find a nearby garage.
Overall, I rate Sai's Crab Meatball Soup Noodle dish a 3 Stars Out of 5 (Pretty good but needs some improvement on key areas). I haven't tried their pho yet but will do an update once I do! Also, I will rate a restaurant's tea too, if the opportunity presents itself. Since apparently, those who are not familiar with teas, think some lukewarm watered down brown liquid is delicious so here's an honest perspective from someone who is very familiar with tea! The tea was hot and had a moderately strong taste of black tea but it was unfortunately not that memorable; I rate it a 2 St ars Out of 5 Stars (Average in my books). Luckily, it wasn't watered down, so yay!
If you've been to Sai's and really enjoyed some other dishes, please provide some comments and I will look into those dishes next time I visit and will report back. Until next time! Stay hungry and eager to find delicious foods in San Francisco! =).
SUMMARY OF SAI’S RESTAURANT (For those in a hurry)
- SANDY RATING: Bun Rieu Crab Meatball Noodle Soup: 3 Out of 5 Stars, Black Tea: 2 Out of 5 Stars
- PROS: Crab Meatball Noodle Soup (yummy tomato soup and fresh tomato chunks, real crab in their meatballs), large portion sizes, accepts credit cards
- CONS: Crab Meatball Noodle Soup (bland slippery white rice noodles, not so fresh deep fried tofu pieces), long wait for weekday lunchtimes
- COST: Fair ($11 for a large noodle bowl without tip, $13 with tip)
- WAIT-TIME: Varies (no wait on a weekday dinner time, long wait on a weekday lunch time)
- SERVICE: Fair (had some dish suggestions, got my order and check within a reasonable time frame)
- AMBIANCE: Casual (low noise level for dinner time and loud noise level for lunch time)
- PARKING: Street Parking or Garage
- PAYMENT: Credit Card or Cash
- MORE INFO: Yelp: 3.5 Stars, $$, 376 Reviews, http://www.yelp.com/biz/sais-restaurant-san-francisco
- LOCATION: Financial District in San Francisco. See Google Map below.