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“Great Experience” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Som Bao Cafe - CLOSED

Som Bao Cafe
Cuisines: Asian, Thai
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Child-friendly, Cheap Eats
Dining options: Dinner, Lunch, Seating, Serves Alcohol, Takeout, Waitstaff
Description: Som Bao Cafe is a family business that's run by the seven grown children of Somdee and Bao Phoutasen, who lent their names to the eatery's moniker and their passion for food to the kitchen. On any given day, guests may meet siblings Bo, Fonsi, or Kelly as they drop off plates of coconut-infused curry or steaming pad thai.
Chesapeake, Virginia
Level Contributor
7 reviews
7 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Great Experience”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 13 January 2013

We love trying new restaurants and found Som Bao Cafe through Groupon. We went on a Saturday night and although it was busy, our server was attentive and our food was served in a timely manner. The atmosphere was family oriented and comfortable. For drinks, we tried the boba drink in the lychee flavor and it was very good. There were many flavors to choose from such as mango, peach, and passion fruit. I'm sure we will eventually try all of them! Our server was wonderful. We told her it was our first time there and she took the time to show us the popular dishes and her favorites. We started out with eggrolls and it was hot and crispy with a sweet and spicy dip that was unique and delicious. For our entrees, I ordered the Neau Nom Took (Spicy Beef Grilled) and my husband ordered the Pad See Ew with chicken, pork, beef, and shrimp. My meal was fantastic! The beef was perfectly cooked and tender. It came with lettuce cups so I made my own lettuce wraps with all the ingredients. I'm Vietnamese and I could taste the delicious southeastern asian flavor in the sauce. My husband was also very satisfied with his meal. Overall, we had a great experience with the food, service, and atmosphere. We will definitely be back!

Visited January 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Karbn333
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

31 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    20
    8
    1
    2
    0
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Virginia Beach, VA
Level Contributor
114 reviews
98 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 129 helpful votes
“Mostly a Nice Laotian Cafe, I Think”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 6 January 2013

Groupon in hand, my wife and I had our first dinner at Som Bao on a Friday night after work. The restaurant is located near the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, in a corner unit of a fairly new shopping center that also contains a new Harris Teeter. The unit is one of those smallish shopping center rectangles; I think their kitchen, which is carved out of a corner of the rectangle, is probably less that 200 sq ft. The restaurant has around 20 tables, plus a bar in one corner, and is decorated in a fairly austere fashion with neutral walls, limited decorations, lower-end tables and chairs, and, unfortunately, two big-screen TVs mounted on adjacent walls. Our initial take on the restaurant's "vibe" was a little confusing --- the bar, TVs, and "Happy Hour" beer special signs said one thing, while their menu of limited but apparently authentic Laotian dishes, and attempts at a few Thai dishes, said quite another. We came to find out that the restaurant, as their first ever business venture, was opened a little over a year ago by an extended Laotian family determined to establish their version of the American Dream. Realizing this, it became more clear that the owners were probably just trying to find their way in the Virginia Beach restaurant scene.

We were quickly seated (luckily so --- the place filled up about a half-hour after we arrived), and spent a few minutes with our green tea perusing our menus, which contained some new dishes for us. We settled on our favorite fresh Spring Rolls to start, and found them to be very tasty and with a little mint, but lacking our favorite fresh basil or cilantro. We then splurged on the Laos-style meatballs, and thought they were also very good but, with the exception of the accompanying (not very) spicy sweet sauce, not really unique. We chose our entrees from the "Chef's Specials" section of the menu --- Thom Khem (caramelized onions, garlic, lemongrass, baby corn, carrots, hard-boiled eggs and galanga, with chicken in a slightly sweetened broth) for my wife, and the fish with sweet basil sauce (strips of talapia, breaded and lightly fried, served en casserole with fresh green pepper, bamboo shoots, diced tomatoes and onions in a thin, slightly seasoned sauce) for me. Both dishes were new to us and very good, and seemed much more like Vietnamese dishes we've had --- thinner meat-based broths, very mildly seasoned, vegetables cooked longer, consistency more like a prepared stew --- rather than our experiences with Thai food. This cuisine --- at least in the dishes we tried --- seems to be not as rich, as heavily seasoned or as "fresh" as our Thai experiences. As is the case when we visit our favorite VB Vietnamese restaurant, we certainly enjoyed our meal at Som Bao and felt satisfied when we finished. But the "Wow" factor, which we always have when we visit our favorite Thai place, was definitely missing here. Som Bao's pricing seems to be quite reasonable; a pot of green tea, two appetizers and two entrees ran $48.18, before tip.

So it occurs to me that it's only been in my lifetime that, in towns like Va Beach, we've gone from all Asian food being chow mein and chop suey, to discussing the uniqueness and differences between Thai (Northern and Southern, of course), Vietnamese and Laotian cuisine. Additionally, all our Chinese choices are now identified by province, and sushi is no longer just sushi. Restaurants like Som Bao have helped us in this transition, and I hope they are able to succeed as a Laotian-themed restaurant for many years to come. And, for us, our favorite Vietnamese place now has some competition.

  • Visited January 2013
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 2 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
1 Thank RickSchlegel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Level Contributor
108 reviews
79 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 59 helpful votes
“Fantastic Hidden Gem”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 2 December 2012

Great selection of authentic food, prepared well.
Hidden in a strip mall near the Courthouse, well worth the visit for fresh delicious Laotian and Thai food

  • Visited November 2012
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
Thank Keveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
200 reviews
97 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 132 helpful votes
“Authentic Food, Excellent Service”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 25 October 2012 via mobile

Their egg rolls and spring rolls are terrific. Food is colorful, flavorful, and artfully presented. Menu selection is quite extensive, and wait staff are knowledgeable and helpful.

    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
Thank dstclair
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Maryland
Level Contributor
158 reviews
88 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 68 helpful votes
“Delicious! Great place to try a new cuisine”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 17 October 2012 via mobile

If you like Asian food, I highly recommend this restaurant. Som Bao offers delicious Thai and Lao cuisine at reasonable prices. Their staff is friendly and our server was quick to offer recommendations and explain traditional eating style.
The food is wonderful! My family had lettuce wraps as an appetizer--this dish is big enough to feed two adults for a whole meal! It is a great option for kids as they can pick and choose the meats and veggies they prefer and, though flavorful, it is not spicy. The vegetables were crispy fresh, the meat was hot and flavorful, and the sauces were plentiful. For a smaller appetizer, I recommend the satay.
There are many entrees to choose from, including familiar noodle dishes such as pad thai. The menu offers many seafood options.
I discovered this restaurant through Groupon and I can't wait to go back.

    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Food
Helpful?
Thank JessicaM6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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