Long ago, back in the spring of 2007, The Wife and I visited Saigon at their original location at the suggestion of a coworker who recommended their banh mi. While we didn’t get an opportunity to try their sandwiches, I enjoyed the food and looked forward to returning.
Well, return I did…nearly five years and a new location/name later. Chapter & Verse contacted me after he saw that Saigon had changed its name again, this time to iPho, and suggested we get together for lunch. I rounded up a couple of other readers: lefty, MSPD, and Closet Carnivore and we met up there on a beautiful day in mid-February. We arrived to a mostly empty restaurant. We were seated in the middle of the space at a big round table and we all ordered their pho. While they offer a variety of options I believe everyone went with the Special and both MSPD and Closet Carnivore added shrimp for several dollars more (~$2.75).
While we waited I looked over the menu which was designed to look like an iPhone. It was black with colored icons of a bowl of pho, a sandwich and something else. Clever I suppose but I’m surprised any business would want to even think about taking on Apple regardless of the lack of confusion they could create. There’s also the expense of changing the name to something which could prove to be a fad in a few more years only to force another name change then. But I digress.
The pho was out quickly and the steaming bowls were set before us. MSPD remarked that the broth smelled sweet as if there was perhaps nutmeg in there somewhere. To me it was a very herby aroma and it was certainly pleasant. There were plenty of noodles and vegetables but very little in the way of meat and what was there was a little more overcooked than I prefer.
The pho itself wasn’t anything special. For what used to be the gold standard in pho in St. Paul, other restaurants have clearly mastered the art that Saigon was commonly known to have knocked out of the park first. The broth was a little oily and the herb flavor was nice but overall the soup was simply uninspired. In fact, if it weren’t for the bottle of garlic chili sauce which was getting a workout from several members at the table, I would have ranked this one pretty low on the scale of pho in the area.
Overall iPho was fine, and based on the large number of people packing the place by the time we left it’s more popular than I would have guessed. However, as popular as it is, the pho really isn’t all that great and you’re probably better off at any number of other restaurants nearby instead. Never the less I had a great time with the guys and gals (MSPD falls into the later) and at least I now know that it’s probably more popular by reputation than it deserves.
Have you ever eaten at iPho (or the old Saigon) in St. Paul? If so what did you think? What did you have? What do you think about their pho? Where else on University would you prefer to go instead? What about their name? Do you think it’s silly or stupid? Do you think it’ll help to get them more business? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
704 University Ave W
St Paul, MN 55104