Sweet Saigon is the only restaurant on the downtown strip with a cooked animal hanging in the front widow. The newly added peking ducks and sides of pork dangling from hooks on Wall Street are taunting meat piñatas saying, "Eat me," and also are the centerpiece of the Vietnamese restaurant's new dim sum menu, served Friday to Sunday.
(Some background: Dim Sum is a style of Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine prepared in small dumpling-like or bite sized portions with various fillings, similar to Spanish tapas. Dim Sum is typically served on weekends as a breakfast snack with tea, a meal based on shared family-style dishes.)
Sweet Saigon is two weeks into its Dim Sum service. Simply ask for the Dim Sum menu while being seated, and a waiter will bring by a rolling cart stacked high with metal steamer baskets. On our visit, the waiter spoke quickly offering up all of the small plates, mostly by showing, not telling, tilting basket after basket our direction. After a lot of pointing, some nodding and very few questions, the table was filled with bite-sized treats housed in round metal steamer baskets.
We started with the shrimp ha gao, a vegetable and shrimp dumpling. Coloring our plates with puddles of Sriracha and teriyaki sauce, we dug into the tasty and simple won-ton pockets along with some more traditional pork dumplings. Both were fairly basic, but tasty.
We ordered what turned out to be an entire plate of crispy pork belly, cut into postage stamp-sized bites. Although the glaze was slightly over crisp and tended to get stuck to the back of our molars, there's pretty much no way to ruin a piece of pork belly. The salty pork was still delicious and sweet, and the pairing of textures of the crunchy, crispy skin and chewy center was divine.
The waiter delivered a fluffy pork bun as big as my head, a sticky bread delicacy stuffed with slow-cooked pork and chilies, so tender and sweet that we had to cut it into quarters to properly devour the morsel.
At $3.50 for smaller plates that came with around six mouthfuls, and $4.50 for slightly larger dishes, it's easy to sneak out with a meal under $20 for a couple, or order a whole table full of assorted baskets for a large group without breaking the bank.
Dim Sum available Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Sweet Saigon, 915 NW Wall St.