The mission to explore takeout dining during Utah’s COVID-19 restaurant closures continues. This week, we visited one of our favorite Sugar House restaurants for dinner to-go: SOMI Vietnamese Bistro.
Since opening around the beginning of 2016, SOMI Vietnamese Bistro has been one of my go-to Asian restaurants in Salt Lake City. It is independently owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Sophia and Michael Eng – hence the moniker SOMI (Sophia + Michael). I’ve never been to SOMI when Michael wasn’t present, keeping a close eye on operations and warmly greeting customers old and new. These days – like so many other struggling restaurants – SOMI has gone to a takeout model. But fear not: everything available for takeout is made in-house from scratch, right down to the homemade hot chili oil which is made using fresh and dried chili peppers, scallions, hot pepper powder, five spice powder, fresh ginger, hot bean sauce, and garlic.
I can’t think of many places that serve whole branzino, nevermind whole branzino for takeout. But SOMI has two different versions of branzino. You can order a delicately steamed branzino served with ginger-scallion glaze, or you can do what my wife did and enjoy the branzino fried to crispy perfection with black bean sauce. Have it your way, as the saying goes.
SOMI specializes in Vietnamese cuisine, but sprinkled throughout the menu are also Chinese dishes such as Honey Walnut Shrimp, Peking Duck, Kung Pao Chicken, Lo Mein, Moo Shu Chicken & Pork, General Tso’s Chicken and such. One of my stepsons – who is mostly vegetarian – enjoyed SOMI’s Homestyle Tofu. It’s a healthy melange of silky, lightly fried tofu mixed with fresh string beans, mushrooms, water chestnuts, red pepper, zucchini, carrots and bamboo shoots, all tossed in a spicy house-made sauce.
When SOMI reopens for in-house dining in May, guests will again be able to enjoy selections from their wine, beer, sake and cocktail lists. For now, drinks include soft drinks, hot tea, Thai iced tea, Vietnamese coffee, fresh lemonade, and buko coconut juice.
Some of my favorite SOMI takeout items are the generously portioned Vermicelli plates with a choice of grilled pork, chicken breast, prawn, boneless short rib or the SOMI Special: it includes the USDA choice short rib plus chicken breast and pork chop. I ordered the grilled boneless pork chop which is lemongrass-marinated and served on a bed of vermicelli noodles with house-made pickled daikon and carrot. Also included in the dish is a delicious crispy fried spring roll with chili-lime vinaigrette. Atop the tender pork slices was a sprinkling of chopped peanuts and scallions.
Of course, no respectable Vietnamese restaurant is pho-free, and SOMI serves up some of the tastiest pho in town. I love the SOMI Special Pho which is slow-simmered beef broth with USDA Choice ribeye, beef meatball, and brisket. The pho also comes with fresh lime, Thai basil and bean sprouts.
When it comes to pho, vegetarians aren’t left out at SOMI. There’s an item called Pho 10, which is a choice of slowly simmered veggie broth or mushroom broth with organic bean sprouts, rice noodles, bok choy, Thai basil and more.
My youngest stepson loves Chinese cuisine and so one of his favorite SOMI dishes is Orange Chicken. Quite simply, it is tender chicken chunks, fried to a crisp and tossed in a spicy orange-flavored glaze with hot dried chili peppers and crunchy broccoli. It’s not a complicated dish, but it sure is delightful.
I hope you’ll continue to support SOMI and all of our local, independent restaurants during this difficult time. Thankfully, many will be opening for in-house dining soon and I hope to see you out and about once again in our local eateries.
And, here is a LAST MINUTE UPDATE: By the time you read this, SOMI should be open again for in-house dining. They are scheduled to start serving in-house on Friday, May 1st.
I want to sincerely thank the generous sponsors of Utah Bites and Utah Stories advertisers for their continued support during this very unstable time. We are extremely grateful. There would be no Utah Bites without sponsors; they are vital to its survival. Please support our wonderful sponsors now and in the future. We wouldn’t be here without them.
Culinary quote of the week:
“Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish: too much handling will spoil it.” — Lao Tzu
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.