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“Hidden Gem, must try!”
Review of Som Bao Cafe - CLOSED

Som Bao Cafe
Cuisines: Asian
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.
Restaurant details
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.
Reviewed 18 August 2013

Som Bao Cafe is a Laos owned restaurant (THEY ARE NOT THAI!) They specialize in Laos food and make THEIR version of Thai food, as fresh, tasty, as possible. The menu is flexible for anyone of all ages and dietary needs. Let your servers know your food preferences, and they will be more than happy to help you find what suits you best. They go out a 5-star spice level, which can be altered on all the dishes, to all the heat-seekers or hiders our there, you're in luck! They also have a trio of spices that you can add on yourself. Service is fast and friendly, and I love the boba tea there! Definately support the Som Bao Family! I hope for big this for this restaurant, it's kinda small right now, but I'm sure they will expand someday!

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1  Thank AudPho
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviews (31)
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21 - 25 of 31 reviews

Reviewed 15 June 2013 via mobile

This was our first time trying food from Laos. Our waitress was wonderful. She made several recommendations and described several dishes for us, comparing and contrasting between Thai dishes that we were more familiar with and their Laotian specialties. Servings were large and prices reasonable. It's our new favorite place!

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Thank Michelle58277
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 February 2013

Went to Som Bao again. I see that they have done another GroupOn to get more people to find out about them - I paid full price.

This time was just as good as the last.

Service can be a little slow - I sat for almost 10 minutes - all of the staff was in the back room - not a big deal on a saturday - I had a book and was in no rush - but as a family-owned restaurant it's all hands on deck.

Really great food - in a nice atmosphere - not over the top "Asian" and not too austere.

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Thank KevinNFK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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!

1  Thank Karbn333
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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.

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1  Thank RickSchlegel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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