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The Most Feng Shui restaurant on Madison

March 24, 2015

by Adriana Rosales

The only Vietnamese restaurant in the Pine Hills area, situated next to Madison Dental, can be found at 791 Madison Ave.

Saigon Pearl is located at 791 Madison Ave / Adriana Rosales

Saigon Pearl is located at 791 Madison Ave / Adriana Rosales

Saigon Pearl, formerly Kim’s Restaurant, is co-owned by John Nguyen and Lilly Nguyen, who are not related. As a new owner, John Nguyen wanted to keep some qualities from Kim’s, while improving on others and adding newer features. Previously owned by Quang Tran for six months, the restaurant came under new management late last summer. During the time Tran ran the establishment, the most popular item on the menu was the pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup.

The new managers wanted to continue providing the dish by keeping Tran in the business and making him one of the cooks in the restaurant. Though the concept of the Pho is the same, Nguyen added a Texas seasoning.

The decoration of the restaurant is meant to resemble a California or Texas motif, Nguyen said. As part of the decor, a waterfall centerpiece, that runs down a wall, can be seen from the sidewalk. The color of the waterfall can be changed to either one solid color, or it can be on a constantly changing cycle.

“During the cold we can put it to look like fire, and when there was an event in Washington Park for Breast Cancer Awareness we change it to match.”

The water piece is meant to establish a feng shui feel. “The energy flows inside through the door, the restaurant, and leaves out the back,” Nguyen said.

The atmosphere is quiet and comfortable in the restaurant, with a dozen tables. “The playlist that he has is very relaxing…and very calming,” said waitress Therese Palmere. She has been working for Nguyen since December, while attending the state University at Albany. Before she was hired, Palmere was a regular customer. In fact she said, “John, already knew my order.”

The water centerpiece provides Saigon Pearl with Feng Shui. /Adriana Rosales

The water centerpiece provides Saigon Pearl with Feng Shui. /Adriana Rosales

The Saigon Pearl menu features pho, rice vermicelli,  and com tam, a broken rice dish. Prices range from $8 to $15.

“If I lived in the Pine Hills area, I’d be at Saigon Pearl more often,” said Pam Slotsky, a Delmar resident who enjoys the Vermicelli with grilled beef. Even though the restaurant is in a student area, she said “[the atmosphere] is far above a student hangout but with student prices.”

A 10% discount is available for students, and discounts are also offered to  police officers and anyone in the military. Saigon Pearl is opened during the week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Wednesday is the only day the restaurant is closed. For the most part, Nguyen advertises through Yelp, Facebook, and an online menu.

While the restaurant has been open for six months and has received a modern face-lift, Nguyen still plans to do more with the establishment. Like most other businesses, they have a budget but once there’s enough money a projector will be put on the wall to display photographs of their travels.

On the weekends, Nguyen brings his 4-year-old daughter Kayleen to work. She sits with her mother in a corner booth, watching as customers go in and out of the restaurant. The care Nguyen has for his family is also brought to the restaurant whether he is on a delivery, waiting tables, or managing his employees. “He treats me like his daughter,” said Palmere. “He’s very caring.” -30-

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