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Savannah foodie


by tim rutherford |


A not so deadly Zin

Saigon Bistro




Broken rice topped with grilled pork and a fried egg

There I go, sneaking into a place barely open two weeks. But I had to: My “field researchers” had good things to say about the chow at Saigon Bistro. And, I’m a sucker for good Vietnamese food. The former location of Juarez was a ticky–tacky hangout of mine. The endless salsa and cheap margaritas were the lure. The proximity to my house was the deciding factor. Saigon Bistro has done quite a clean–up from the old Juarez days. It’s bright and shiny — and the kitchen doesn’t look nearly as scary. The menu is basic Vietnamese with hints of Thai thrown in for good measure.I played it safe, sticking with broken rice topped with grilled pork and a fried egg. It was good, but not revolutionary. Crispy bits of pork added interest to the rice and the over–easy egg yolk did its best to ramp up the party — to no avail. The plate was nicely presented, which gives me hope that the kitchen is finding its legs. A vinegar and fish sauce was remarkably without flavor when poured over

the pork and rice. Good portion size, sure, and a gratifying meal — but overall lacking pizzazz. A pair of pork skin rolls were big and fresh, but again not that flavorful — thank goodness for an ample dipping bowl of peanut sauce. The rolls were filling, the thinly sliced pork skins chewy. Hey, no “little frou–frou” neatly wrapped glass noodle rolls here — these are made for working guys and girls! And while the food may have been hot, the service was tepid. Our waitress was as tentative about the food as she was the delivery. Have patience, grasshopper. I like to give a new kid a break, and a new restaurant time to gain its momentum. If I could offer a word of advice, it would be the word “confidence.” This is food that has the potential to fill a void, to deliver on flavor and imagination. Drop the inhibitions and challenge my palate. Diners around us seemed to offer mixed feelings, from one audible “inedible” to young and old quickly cleaning their plates. Food truly is that subjective. I’ll be back. The menu promises that “coming soon” will be Banh Mi (the French–inspired Vietnamese sandwich) and Banh Xeo (Vietnamese crepe). Saigon Bistro/5700 Waters Ave.

Pity Zinfandel, woefully Dangerfield–esque: “I don’t get no respect.” Part of that critical disdain lies in Zin’s roots — or definitive lack of rock–solid lineage. It certainly has no genetic link to the great grapes of France, hence its shunning by the world’s most prominent oenology. There is speculation that it derives from a Croatian variety, and some DNA studies suggest relationship to Italy’s Primitivo — a prominent grape originating in the boot heel of that famous wine nation. Need more reasons to ignore Zin? Consider the pop wine White Zinfandel, please. White Zin comes form the same grape as luscious red Zin, but gets its blank color from having the black skins withheld during fermentation. Typically, it was cloyingly sweet. New releases are less so, but still, alas, white Zin languishes when the topic of “real wine” is bandied about. I will however, advocate a sampling of Zinfandel (red), which can proof as interesting and varied as a tasting of varied terroir Pinot Noir, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Zinfandel pours a range of shades, from deep garnet red to a nearly inky black. At its best, Zin also varies across the palate, ranging from clean and juicy fruity to full–bodied, peppery and downright smoky. As a truly “American” wine, pair it successfully with our popular foods — pizza, burgers and red meat. When chilled slightly cooler than the recommended 65 degrees, is as refreshing as a Rose on a hot summer day When chilling Zin, look for choices with alcohol levels under 14 percent — otherwise, you’ll get nothing but an alcohol influence in the nose — and on the palate. What pushed my Zin button was the opening of Quivera 2008 Dry Creek Zinfandel on New Year’s Eve. I wanted something spicier to accompany a grilled porterhouse being served by the firepit. And I got it. This Zin is peppery and dark. The relatively warmer climate of Quivira’s vineyard yields notes of blackberry, anise and pepper. Its big body stood up to my porterhouse – and served to soothe my New Year’s evening as I finished the bottle by the fire. Vineyard owners Pete and Terri Kight hail from Atlanta, where they still have business interests. I met Terri at a trade tasting last year, and had my first taste of their bio–dynamically farmed wine grapes. The Healdsburg, Calif., vineyard is stunning property and continues to mature with each passing year. The same can be said of the wines. You’ll have to kick over rocks to find Quivira; it’s worth the effort. The wines are handled in Savannah by Empire Distributing. Dry Creek Zin is about $20. More recommendations you say? Consider Joel Gott Zin from Sonoma Valley or the budget friendly Michael David Seven Deadly Zins. cs

Profile for Connect Savannah

Jan. 12, 2011 Connect Savannah Issue  

Featuring Savannah metal band Kylesa; remembering Spitfire Poetry Group founder Clinton Powell; Live Oak Public Libraries annual gala; versa...

Jan. 12, 2011 Connect Savannah Issue  

Featuring Savannah metal band Kylesa; remembering Spitfire Poetry Group founder Clinton Powell; Live Oak Public Libraries annual gala; versa...