Friday, January 22, 2021

Soall Viet Kitchen: A Bright & Tasty Spot in Beverly

Beverly continues to become a compelling culinary destination, and a few of my favorite restaurants there include A&B Burgers, Ellis Square Social, and Frank. I'm adding a new restaurant to my list of favorites, Soall Viet Kitchen, a Vietnamese spot which is located on Rantoul Street and open for lunch and dinner, from Tuesday to Sunday. 

This is actually a second location, the first being the Soall Bistro in Marblehead which opened in March 2012. The two owners are Sa Nguyen and Mia Lunt, close friends who desired to offer authentic Vietnamese cuisine, to highlight the culinary delights of their homeland. The name "Soall" is connected to their families, a combination of Nguyen's mother's name, Soa, and the first letters of Lunt's sons' names, Logan and Liem. As their website states, "Fresh herbs & vegetables, quality ingredients and minimal use of oil make Vietnamese one of the healthiest cuisines." 

I've had lunch three times at Soall (once comped by the owners), and intend to return to try more of the menu, as well as to enjoy some of my favorite dishes again. I've met and conversed with both Sa and Mia, who are very personable and obviously passionate about Vietnamese cuisine. They want to show their customers more than just Bahn Mi and Pho, to let people experience all the other culinary treasures to be found in Vietnamese cuisine. Even though this is their second location, they still have the difficulty of opening a new restaurant in a different city. In addition, opening any restaurant during the pandemic has plenty of its own obstacles. In short, I've generally been impressed with the quality and taste of the dishes I've eaten. 

The restaurant has indoor dining, and the tables are well spaced, and as soon as the Spring weather arrives, they will open their patio. Take-out and delivery are also available, and during my visits, take-out seemed popular.  They have future plans to open a small market within the restaurant, selling Asian items as well as some of their prepared foods. I'm eager to see this market come together.

Besides the regular tables, they have several seats at a small bar adjacent to the counter where you order your food. 

The Menu has plenty of options, and though much is authentic, they also allow themselves room for some creative takes. There are five main sections to the menu, such as Snacks & Salads (12 options, $5-$9), Bowls (vermicelli noodles, jasmine rice, or greens with 2 toppings, meat, poultry, seafood, veggie, $17), Noodles Soups (5 options, $14-$15), Bahn Mi (6 options, $11 each), and a few Special items like a Caramelized Pork Chop ($19) and Shrimp Tamarind Soup ($16). Prices are reasonable considering the quality of the ingredients, the work that goes into the creation of each dish, and their taste. 
They also sell wine, beer, and hard seltzer, and there appears to be some good choices available. Would be nice to see some Sake available, as it would pair very well with the cuisine. 

The Pork & Prawn Egg Rolls ($6) are also made with carrot, onion, taro, and glass noodles. An excellent, crispy and thin skin, with a tender, flavorful filling. Much lighter than the typical Chinese egg roll. 

The Spring Roll ($4) is available with shrimp, beef, chicken or tofu, and I opted for the Shrimp. As can be seen through the thin rice paper, the roll contained three good-sized shrimp, as well as a spring mix, cucumber, and mint. It was accompanied by a hoisin sauce and sriracha. Very fresh and light, with plump and tender shrimp. And that sriracha is hot! 

One of my favorite dishes was the Sweet Potato & Shrimp Fritters ($7), with sweet chili sauce. It was as if they made crisp noodles, though still with a touch of softness, out of the sweet potato and molded them together around a couple plump shrimp. A fine blend of flavors and textures, these fritters were excellent comfort food and the chili sauce was a nice accompaniment. I actually ordered these on two of my visits as I enjoyed them so much. Highly recommended.

I received a couple of the Braised Pork Ribs ($8) to sample, and the sweet sauce on the ribs was quite compelling, with a definite Asian flair. The sauce wasn't overly sweet, and possessed a savory element that helped balance the sweet. The ribs themselves were meaty and tender, and it was easy to clean them down to the bone. 

The Grilled Beef Skewers ($8), made with garlic, soy, lemongrass, and honey, were also very tender and flavorful, again not too sweet. In addition, they possessed a very pleasing and enticing aroma. 

The Steamed Bao ($8), which you can order with shrimp or pork, is also made with cucumber, pickled veggies, and Vietnamese mayo (though I omitted the mayo on mine). I opted for the pork and as you can see, they well filled the two soft bao. The tender pork was very thinly sliced and burst with flavors that reminded me a bit of the ribs. The pickled veggies added a crunchy aspect, as well as some different flavors, to the softer meat and bao. Also highly recommended. 

They serve six different types of Bahn Mi ($11), made with cucumber, cilantro, jalapeño, Vietnamese mayo (again omitted for me), and I chose the Roasted BBQ Pork for my main filling. This pork may be the same as in the Bao, and definitely is very tender and possessed of much delicious flavor. The baguette is nice and crunchy on the outside, and much softer inside. An excellent choice for lunch.

I was thoroughly impressed with the Clay Pot, which is made with either Salmon ($16) or Chicken ($14). I chose the chicken, which was cut into small chunks and prepared within a caramelized sweet and savory sauce, which is served bubbling hot. To accompany the dish, you have your choice of jasmine rice, vermicelli noodles or salad, and you also received cucumber, pickled daikon, and carrot. The chicken was moist and tender, and the sauce possessed a great depth of flavor, which you were supposed to pour atop your accompaniments. The sauce was nicely balanced between sweet and savory, and I could easily see this sauce atop seafood, beef, or basically any protein. The veggies kind of acted as a nice palate cleanser to the richer sauce. Highly recommended. 

Overall, Soall Viet Kitchen earns my hearty recommendation and I'm eager to return to try more of their menu. The food was fresh, well-prepared, delicious and reasonably priced. Service was very good and everyone who works there is personable and professional. Soall is still relatively new to Beverly, so it will be intriguing to see how it develops, including when they eventually open their market. I wish Sa and Mia much luck in this new endeavor. Beverly has a new culinary gem, enhancing its growing reputation for excellent restaurants. 

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