Dinner at the Soy House

Last night we went out to eat at the downtown location of the Soy House Black Pearl*, a new-ish Vietnamese restaurant.  I had been there once before with some girlfriends, really liked it, and now it was time to try it with the family.  Not that we needed a special occasion, but it was our belated Valentine’s Day celebration.  It is so much nicer to go out a different night!  Not as crowded so we get better service.  However, since it was a Saturday night, and we had neglected to make reservations, we had to wait 20 minutes to be seated.

The menu was improved with color pictures so one could visualize the dishes.  Very helpful for those of us not familiar with Vietnamese cuisine.  For instance a Bún is not a sandwich (although they do have sandwiches called–Sandwiches); A Bún is meat with a side of rice noodles, various vegies and a sauce.  Also, the soup Pho is pronounced Fa.  I ordered the Tofu Pho with extra vegetables (I had the the same thing last time and it was so good I had to have it again.  It wasn’t because I am unadventurous) and one egg roll for us to share, my husband ordered a small bowl of chicken and asparagus soup and the Shaking Beef entrée .  It was stir-fried beef with vegies and rice in a yummy sauce.  Our son had pork with white rice and a side salad.

Since we were seated on the side closer to the bar, we could see the kitchen including a bit of the pizza oven.  Also, there is the hostess desk and a busing station with two walls between that seating area and the front door.  This is important to me as I become chilled easily.  I had worn a wool sweater, so I was okay.  If I hadn’t, I would probably have been chilly.  I noticed quite a few patrons wearing jackets and one couple wearing their wool winter hats.  Granted that is sometimes a fashion statement, but I wish Bellingham restaurant managers would take note: when your patrons are wearing their jackets while they dine, you need to jack up the heat.  I’ve worked in restaurants myself and the heat should be set for the comfort of the diners, not the employees.  I’ve observed that this is a common problem in this town and sometimes I choose where to go partly by how warm I expect I’ll be.

Soon enough our dinner arrived and it was presented in quite a lovely fashion.  The soup, which I sampled, came first and was flavorful.  The stuffing in the egg roll was tasty, but the exterior was very greasy–not at all how I am accustomed to them being.  The sauce it came with was better.  It had some chiles in it so it had a little kick to it, but not too much. My Pho was again fabulous.  The broth was interesting on its own and if I was sick, that’s what I’d want to eat.  I had ordered the fried tofu (one can get it fresh instead) and it was nice and chewy, but not overly so.  The vegetables were varied–broccoli, zucchini, carrots mostly.  It came with a side of bean sprouts, basil, and lime.  I added all three plus some sriracha sauce.  The bowl was very big, easily a full meal.  I ate most of it except about a cup of the rice noodles and maybe half a dozen of the tofu wedges.  My husband, a prodigious eater, ate all his soup and about 2/3 of his main dish.  However, he  also ate about a third of our son’s meal as he was not especially hungry that night.  So, we got to take some home which is quite unusual for us.

The next day, I made a lunch out of my leftovers by making some stock and then simmering some mushrooms and carrots in it.  I then added the leftover noodles and tofu and garnished it with some cilantro I had on hand that needed to get used up.  It turned out pretty well.

2014_0223Pho Lunch (1280x720)

I’ve only been to two other Vietnamese restaurants. The first was over 20 years ago in Madison, WI.  I remember that I enjoyed it.  The second was just a few months ago at Dashi in Bellingham.  I have to say, I was disappointed in Dashi.  I had heard good things about it and I wanted to like it, but the food didn’t come together for me.  All the components were interesting, but they didn’t add up to anything. I think what it comes down to is that their broth isn’t layered enough.  Also, the idea that you can build your own bowl perhaps is a good one, but it might be better for the cooks to come up with the best combinations. Shouldn’t they know best?  They have a rather extensive condiment bar which is fun, but it doesn’t seem to help.  What I would like to do there is make a salad out of the items offered in the condiment bar, but I expect that would be frowned upon!

*I can’t believe I did this, but I did not go to Black Pearl!  I have never been to Black Pearl and I have no idea why I originally wrote that.  We went to the Soy House.  Oddly enough, both restaurants have a location on Holly St and then the Soy House has a location on Bakerview and the Black Pearl has one on Barkley (both start with “B”).   Also, both serve Vietnamese food.  Perhaps all that explains my confusion?? It certainly explains my confusion when I looked at the menu when we were at the Soy House and I couldn’t find some of the items I’d seen on it when I looked on-line when I was at home (I mist have been looking at the Black Pearl menu).  Anyway, I am pretty embarrassed I made such a dopey mistake. 

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