The Eats : New Saigon Restaurant , 1529 6th Ave., 623-0212. Vietnamese with special vegetarian menu.

The Deets : Navigating the transient-tourist-solicitor-retail obstacle course that


Empty Promises Plague New Saigon's "Vegetarian" Menu

The Eats: New Saigon Restaurant, 1529 6th Ave., 623-0212. Vietnamese with special vegetarian menu.

The Deets: Navigating the transient-tourist-solicitor-retail obstacle course that is Westlake Center can drum up a serious hunger (pun intended, street bucket drummer dude). For vegetarians who find themselves in the area, keeping the grumbles at bay is a significant challenge--you can snack on a veggie dog at Dog in the Park or Cyber Dogs, but few places around offer up a decent array of vegetarian entrees.

Yet along comes New Saigon, nestled right at the corner of 6th and Pine, with handy signage marketed direct to the herbivore: a sandwich board and neon sign advertising their "vegeterian" [sic] food. Despite the "Engrish," with your shopping bags full and your tank empty, the promise of a fresh, vegetarian Vietnamese lunch can be too powerful a lure to resist.

The Beets: But if you can, resist! New Saigon is pleasant enough--just down a flight of stairs is the subterranean dining room, kept tidy by unforgiving florescent lighting that necessitates the constant orbit of roving bussers. But this place exists to meet one purpose and one purpose only: to service the downtown lunch rush and any miscellaneous tourists and shoppers who amble in throughout the day.

Service is quick and sufficient, but lost in translation. I asked if tofu accompanied the Vegetarian Vermicelli Bowl and was told it comes with bean curd (aka tofu). What was delivered instead was a simple bowl of rice noodles, fried onions, carrots, and shredded lettuce with three crusty, possibly re-fried, egg rolls on a side plate. No tofu, no pizazz--just a bunch of noodles in a bowl and a salad dressing that smelled a lot like fish sauce.

The Tweet: New Saigon is forgettable; vegetarians, rest your weary legs a few blocks up at the always-awesome, 100% vegetarian Cyber Dogs.

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