Typically Vietnamese restaurants in New York do not serve dumplings, but Saiguette serves eight styles of dumplings. Saiguette is mainly a large busy kitchen with a small service counter and six stools at a tiny counter along the window. If you eat in, you will likely find yourself partially sitting on someone else’s lap. Surprisingly for a such a tiny place, they have a full menu of Banh Mi, Pho, Bun, Banh Hoi and other Vietnamese staples, but the vast majority of their business is take-0ut.
The Dumplings: All of the dumplings are wrapped in a very thin, rice flower wrapper and are served steamed in aluminium to-go containers. The available choices are: Veggie, Spinach, Chicken, Shrimp, Pork with dry Shrimp and Cabbage, Garlic Chives, Garlic Chives with Shrimp, and Taro and Peanut. The vegetable filled dumplings are vegan.
Pork with dry Shrimp and Cabbage – I ate these at the counter, piping hot, straight out of the steamer so the rice noodle wrappers were silky soft and springy textured. The filling in these dumplings was phenomenal, I could taste each of the three components contributing flavor separately and coming together in a savory, slightly sweet synergy. The crunchy cabbage balanced the smooth, fatty mouth feel of the pork and slipperiness of the noodle wrapper.
The Spinach and the Garlic Chives Dumplings – I took orders of these dumplings to-go but they did not stand up well to traveling. As the dumplings cooled, the rice flower wrappers got gummy and stuck together, making it difficult to get them out of the to-go containers without ripping the wrappers apart. The fillings in each of these dumplings tasted fresh, green and nourishing, and I really enjoyed the Garlic Chive filling. But as a to-go dish the wrappers disappointed, I didn’t enjoy them once they had cooled and turned gummy.
I think the bottom line is that the dumplings are excellent but you need to eat them at the counter rather than take them to-go. It is unfortunate that Saiguette is so tiny and can accommodate so few eat-in diners.
The Dipping Sauce: Saiguette serves a pretty interesting dipping sauce made, of what tasted like, soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil with chopped cilantro and scallions.
The Location: Saiguette is in the Manhattan Valley neighborhood in the upper west side of Manhattan and is on the corner of 106th (Duke Ellington Blvd.) and Columbus Avenue.