Five years ago, Kim and John Ngo thought it would be only a dream to own a business located at 1778 North Highland Rd., which was previously home to Leonard's Restaurant.
Today, however, they are living that dream in their 10-week-old restaurant called Saigon 88.
"It is truly a dream come true for us to get this location," Kim said. "When we looked at this location five years ago, we thought it would be too expensive, so we opened another restaurant on ."
Kim and John both grew up in Pittsburgh. John attended Mt. Lebanon High School and Kim went to Brashear High School. He later went onto become an executive chef at Benihana, where he worked for 12 years, and she pursued her career in marketing. After a brief stint in a marketing job, she decided to open a nail salon called Perfect Nails, which is located just doors away from Saigon 88. The salon is celebrating its 11th year in business.
Together, they have combined their careers to make Saigon 88 a success. And they are well on their way.
The menu boasts a variety of the most popular dishes often seen on the menus at Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants. John compliments these dishes with his own signature sauces and special touches.
"Our specialties include the many tastes of Asia, from hibachi sushi to thai curry to pork marinated in lemongrass," Kim said. "We do not want to compete with Pho Kim 88, so only about half of our dishes are from that restaurant, with the other have being new to Saigon 88."
Prior to deciding on their current location, John and Kim looked at other sites in surrounding areas, including Peters Township, Mt. Lebanon and South Side.
"More than 90 percent of our customers are new," Kim said. "Some of them are very grateful for the change in the area, while others are still getting used to it, but so far, so good."
The menu showcases a hearty menu that includes a wide array of dishes, some of which celebrate the Pittsburgh heritage, including the Pittsburgh Roll for $9.50, which consists of crabmeat, avocado and cucumbers topped with spicy salmon, shrimp, cucumbers, onions and a touch of caviar. The Black and Gold Roll is a mixture of New York steak, cucumber, crabmeat and lettuce.
A wide assortment of tantelizing appetizers will leave customers pondering just what to order. Listed on the menu, which Kim plans to update once a year, is a spring roll for $5, crispy dumplings for $8, Saigon quesadillas for $12 and sushi pizza for $9.
The soups include Saigon hot pot for $15, onion for $3 and miso for $3. Some of the mouth-watering entrees include hibachi tuna or salmon for $19, chicken and shrimp or steak for $23, general tso's chicken or shrimp for $14 or hibachi chicken for $17.
For some, dessert is the best part of the meal, and Saigon 88 does not disappoint. At $6 each, the dessert menu is complete with burnt almond torte, fudge crown torte and banana roti, which is made with sweet bananas, cinnamon, chocolate syrup and fruit.
The drink selection includes espresso, smoothing, domestic beers, wine, saki and imported beers, which feature a special selectino from Saigon.
As if the menu is not enough to make the restaurant a success, its name surely will.
"Saigon is named for the place where John was born, and the number 88 represents prosperity among most Asians," Kim said.
There are private party accommodations for up to 140, and a special catering menu is also available. In the short time that the restaurant has been open, it has been host to about five large parties.
The hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 412-831-8828. To see the full menu or get directions, visit http://www.saigon88.net.