There is plenty of research to support that a hands on approach to learning is vital to a child’s education. Then, why not let your child get his or her hands dirty the next time you venture out for a good meal? One of My Little Foodies’ favorite places to do so is at Chateau de Saigon.
Kids will take delight in building their meal by wrapping various meats, herbs, rice noodles, and more in either rice paper or lettuce at this casual yet classy Vietnamese restaurant. Dinner on weekends draws a serious crowd, so lunch or a weeknight jaunt might be the way to go. We typically order family style and share a number of light and fragrant dishes that are so typical of this region.
The menu is quite bountiful, and we discover new things every time we go. The tart and crunchy green apple and mango salad topped with shrimp, pork (they will happily substitute with beef or chicken), mint, fried onions, and crushed peanuts is a refreshing appetizer and a satiating lunch on its own. My Little Foodies both love the airy shrimp crackers that come along side.
I finally tried the spicy lemongrass tofu after much adulation from friends and a foodie pediatrician. I was pleasantly surprised by this lightly fried dish, given my indifference to the “tilapia”of Asian foods. Little A happily munched away, as Big A remarked that the “nuggets” with sauce (request some hoisin for dipping) “were amazing.”
The fun part for the kids comes when you order banh trang cuon or rice paper wraps. A variety of grilled proteins are served with rice paper and a shallow bowl of water. Kids can have fun soaking the paper until it’s pliable and then filling it with an assortment of meats including grilled pork, shrimp, beef, or shrimp wrapped sugarcane. They can top it off with some vermicelli, lettuce, and herbs, and they’ll have themselves a little Vietnamese burrito. Another hands-on family favorite is the Vietnamese crepe made from rice flour, turmeric, and coconut milk, stuffed with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. This is a lower carb option since the wrap is lettuce instead of rice paper. It is also a great starter food for babies that lack a full set of teeth.
I recently met a good friend for dinner, and was reminded of the family friendly service as well. They were very flexible in substituting proteins (chicken for pork) in many of the dishes. They also constantly stopped by our table to do a “song and dance” to placate our fussy babies, as our focus was refereeing our preschoolers’ heated argument over who was touching whose leg under the table. One friendly waitress, Van, even proceeded to take my friend’s baby and rock him all over the restaurant so we could finish our meal! If that isn’t kid-friendly service, I don’t know what is. So next time you are strolling Buford for an interactive dining experience, consider the Chateau (or Castle)—your kids will certainly be treated like a prince or a princess!
Shrimp & Pork Apple Mango Salad-$8.50
Spicy Lemongrass Tofu-$8.50
Rice Paper Wraps-$11.95-$13.95 (Depending on the protein)