Vietnamese on 17th provides comfort for ailing food scribe

Last week was brutal. It was my first time experiencing food poisoning in Calgary and because I can’t (with 100 per cent certainty) confirm that it was from a particular venue I was reviewing I’m going to leave it at that.

Sadly the symptoms have lingered making it somewhat difficult for me to do a proper review this week. With this in mind my husband suggests a casual Vietnamese spot on 17th Avenue S.W. that he frequents with his colleagues.

We decide on takeout and I phone in the order. The woman on the phone is friendly and reads my order back for accuracy — she lets me know it will be ready in 10 to 15 minutes.

I head down to the spot formerly occupied by Arden Diner (and lesser-known businesses since) to have a look at the room. The restaurant is somewhat busy and fairly basic in design featuring red walls decorated with photos of (presumably) Vietnam. I can only presume this because a) I’m no landscape expert and b) because the menu also features Thai dishes.

After a positive experience with the staff I’m on the road again sipping on a creamy delicious lychee bubble tea ($4.95) as I make my way home with the feast.

My husband and I start with two takes on rolls — fresh shrimp salad rolls (three for $5.95) and deep-fried pork spring rolls (four for $5.95). Wrapped in rice wrappers and stuffed with large shrimp vermicelli noodles and iceberg lettuce the salad rolls fall flat. The ingredients are fresh and the accompanying peanut satay sauce is tasty but where are the herbs? I would love a hit of basil mint or cilantro right about now.

The pork spring rolls are a different story. Filled with minced pork noodles and shredded carrots the roll’s flavour is enhanced by a deep-fried crunchy golden exterior. Served with fish sauce the roll size is generous and four is a good amount for two people. Yum.

For his main my husband tries one of Golden Bell’s vegetarian dishes — stir-fried vegetables and tofu in a spicy satay sauce ($9.95). For the cost of a plate of food at the mall this dish serves up a decent portion of fluffy white rice with red and green peppers mushrooms broccoli cauliflower carrots and Asian greens (not sure if it’s bok choy or not). This dish isn’t mind-blowing but the fried tofu soaks up the flavour of the deliciously spicy satay sauce nicely. His only complaint is that the vegetables are a little too soft (not mushy but definitely lacking crunch).

I have the bun ga xao sa (chicken sautéed with lemon grass over vermicelli $9.95). Chock full of vermicelli noodles peanuts lettuce bean sprouts carrots and cucumber the dish is good but it’s not the best out there. The lemon grass is fragrant and the noodles are nicely prepared but other than that it’s pretty average.

In a city flush with great Vietnamese restaurants Golden Bell Saigon may not be my favourite game in town but the service is friendly and the portions are generous and affordable. Overall it’s a decent spot for Vietnamese food on 17th Avenue.

Golden Bell Saigon has an additional location on Macleod Trail.