Kim’s Vietnamese Restaurant is a small, casual, unassuming little stop in the Lumberyard. In fact, I never even knew it was there! Upon entering, we were greeted by the cutest little lady I’ve ever seen. Our friend Sue introduced us to the owner Kim.
“It’s so nice to meet you!” she said, with the enthusiasm of a child’s first trip to Disneyland. The hugs and joy she got out of seeing Sue almost brought a tear to my eye. “How long has it been since you’ve seen each other?” I asked.
“About 2 weeks” said Sue. “That’s just Kim.”
I mentioned that I was writing a blog (since I was the only person in the place taking pictures) and Kim sprang into action. “I have something for you to try!” and she scurried off.
She brought back an exquisite Shrimp and Sugarcane Platter for the table to share. The way she presented it to us was as if she was giving us a part of her soul.
“I hope you like this” she said with an immeasurable amount of worry and uncertainty in her voice.
She had nothing to fear and when we told her how good it was, you would think it was the first time she has ever received a compliment in her life. “Oh, I am so glad!” and her shining face showed you just how glad she was.
I’m a huge fan of kitchen gadgets and here is one I don’t have! It’s a rice paper soaker! This thing is great! When I make spring rolls at home, I use a shallow dish filled with water, but this thing is way cooler! I know Hanukkah has past and all, but just in case Santa wants to visit a Jew this year, see here.
I ordered a small Sweet & Sour Coconut Soup because Hubby hates coconut and I wasn’t in the mood to share. Actually, word on the street is this is The Thing to get. I thought $9.95 was steep for a small bowl of soup, but I found out “small” refers to sharing with a small group of people, not a small bowl of soup.
Umami is a fancy word used by fancy food snobs and the writers at Food and Wine Magazine to describe a taste that none of us common folk really know what it means. We know it’s considered a 5th taste along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It’s Japanese. It’s savory and it’s good. I’m going to describe this Sweet and Sour Coconut Soup as
having being containing Umami. (My spell check doesn’t even recognize the word). I could be wrong. Umami to me means “super yummy with Asian flare and a sweet-sour-salty flavor that makes your lips pucker but in a good way”. Umami.
Oldest and Girlfriend shared the Ginger Shrimp with Mixed Vegetables. This dish was outstanding and packed with flavor.
They also shared a Vietnamese Crepe. It was ripped into so fast, I can’t even tell you what was inside. But the verdict was a combined, “Mmmm”.
Sue and Dan shared the Salmon Pho served with a jungle of greens to add-in (not shown in picture). I have never been a huge fan of Pho because I find the broth lacks flavor. I’ve tried it 3-4 times and have written it off. But this Pho is different! The broth was a carnival of flavors doing the happy dance in my mouth! Best Pho I’ve had, but still second to that Coconut Soup IMO.
Hubby’s Ginger Chicken with Mixed Vegetables with a side of sticky brown rice was scrumptious. Kim checked in on us and could see how much we were enjoying our meal. She couldn’t have been more pleased. Thrilled. She was thrilled.
I have had Green Papaya Salad before, and was excited to try it at Kim’s, this time with shrimp. The amount of shrimp on the plate was outrageous! Although the salad looked beautiful, it lacked the umami flavor I remember. It was a bit blah and not on the level that everything else was tonight.
When we were done Kim asked me how everything was. I was torn. Do I tell her the truth about the Green Papaya Salad? Normally, I wouldn’t say anything. But knowing I would tell the truth to my readers in the blog, I didn’t want her to be blindsided. I decided to tell her the truth, you know, honesty being the best policy and all.
“Kim, everything was absolutely delicious! Truly, the best Vietnamese food I have ever had! ” I saw her eyeing the mounds of Green Papaya Salad sitting next to all of the other empty plates. I started to sweat.
“Um, the Green Papaya Salad wasn’t my favorite.” THUMP, kicked Hubby’s foot into my shin. “HOW COULD YOU?” he mouthed to me across the table, his face saturated in disapproval.
“Er, what I mean is….” but I instantly regretted this decision. Honesty is NOT always the best policy! How can I crush this sweet, lovely woman’s heart? Who does that? I tried to be as gentle as I could, though I am not known to exactly have the delicate tact that some of my much sweeter friends have.
“The salad was just a little bit bland compared to everything else” I blurted out, too far off the plank not to hit water now. I stammered on, ” but the shrimp! So much shrimp! And the salad ! So wonderfully crunchy! The vegetables are so fresh and flavorful!” I watched as Kim’s lower lip quivered and she bowed her head in shame. She quickly cleared the damaged goods from our table and I felt about 2 feet tall. Nice move me, way to go.
As the table was cleared and we waited for our check, a brand new Green Papaya Salad arrived.
“Like this” said Kim and she gently mixed the dressing on the bottom of the plate into the salad. Ohhh, so that’s where all the flavor was hiding! I didn’t know I needed to toss it! Although we were all stuffed, we had to have a serving of the new and delicious Green Papaya Salad filled with umami! Kim was pleased and the world was good again.
If you want to not only have the best Vietnamese food but you would also like to meet the nicest lady in Encinitas, come to Kim’s Vietnamese. Come once, and you will be treated like a celebrity guest. Come again, and you will be treated like family. And don’t worry if you eat too much and need your trousers let out. That’s because this Kim is the same Kim at Kim’s Alterations across the 101! And ladies, trust me. Kim is exactly the person you want to trust with your wedding dress! I want to come back soon for more of this delicious and healthy food Vietnamese food. I want to come back for a hug.
Next blog is Sunday, December 16th at 6:30pm at