A new Vietnamese restaurant from a pair of first-time owners is coming to a Lakeview space that housed Spanish Square at Belmont and Southport Avenues. The owners of the forthcoming Sochi Saigonese Kitchen say they want to surprise Chicagoans with items rarely seen at local Vietnamese restaurants.
Buoyed by a passion for the flavors of their hometown of Ho Chi Minh City — still called Saigon by locals — the wife-and-husband-team of Chinh Pham and Son Do plan to offer unique dishes like egg rolls wrapped in special rice paper from Vietnam instead of the wheat wrapper seen at many local spots. The menu also includes favorites like pho, several types of bahn mi, Goi vit Thanh Da (banana blossom duck salad), Nui Suon Bo Ba Ngoai (short rib soup), and coffee flan.
Pham is especially excited about the opportunity to showcase the “true essence of pho” in the southern Vietnamese style typically characterized by slim noodles, many of cuts of beef, and toppings like hoisin, chilis, and Thai basil. Customers can wash that down with Saigon Special, a Vietnamese lager that balances the sweet, savory, and spicy flavors in the food, along with some Chicago brews, cocktails, and traditional Vietnamese coffee and tea.
Construction is underway at 1358 W. Belmont Avenue, a space that Spanish Square vacated at the start of 2018. The new tenants are transforming the more than 2,200 square-foot space into a sleek, modern oasis that will seat 66 in total. Spanish Square’s circular European-styled chandeliers and tiled floors are being replaced with light grey marble, natural bamboo wood, and an open kitchen that lets diners catch a whiff of fragrant broth on the stove. There isn’t room for outdoor dining, but the space will feature large windows that allow for increased air circulation and live plants tucked around the dining room.
While they are both natives of Saigon, Pham and Do met as college students while studying business in Singapore. It was there they discovered a mutual love of food and dining, and they began concocting plans to open their dream restaurant down the road. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in 2016 through the EB-5 visa program, which provides a possible path to a green card for those who are willing to invest $1 million into a U.S. business and create jobs for American workers.
The pair say they have leveraged their life savings, risking everything to create opportunities for their family and forge a life in the hospitality industry. “Opening [Sochi] is the only way to express our passion and our care,” Pham says. “We want to share that with the people here, for them to have a better, deeper understanding of Vietnamese cuisine.”
Stay tuned for updates.
Sochi Saigonese Kitchen, 1358 W. Belmont Avenue, Scheduled to open April 20.