September 30, 2015

Same Same but Different in NoLibs

There are so many hot new restaurants in Philly, it's tough to know which to try next. On the top of our list was Same Same in Northern Liberties... and it should be on yours, too.

We first met Chef Chad Kubanoff and his wife Thuy in London during our inaugural Chowzter/FoodieHub blogger trip and spent an entire day with them food hunting through various markets. Proving how small our world really can be, it turned out Chad was from Bucks County but living in Vietnam at the time, cooking at a top restaurant and running motorbike street food tours with Thuy, who was born and raised in Vietnam. For FoodieHub, they represented Saigon, offering expert recommendations for where to get the best banh mi, noodles and more around the busy city.

They moved back to the U.S. last year to fulfill Chad's dream to open a restaurant here at home. Same Same shows off some of the best street food Saigon has to offer. You'll barely recognize the former Koo Zoo Doo space turned casual, with a small courtyard and local street signs on the walls.

Definitely check out Same Same for lunch or dinner. Pho will be added to the menu soon, just in time for winter. In the meantime, here's what we ate...

For a main dishes at Same Same, choose between a banh mi sandwich, noodle bowl or lettuce wraps, and then pick your featured meat/vegetable. Our banh mi was with pho-spiced pork confit, made with a dry rub of star anise, cinnamon, black cardamom and black pepper. The pork is marinated overnight, slowly braised in pork fat for 8 hours and seared to order. The bread comes from Ba Le Bakery on Washington Ave. Loved it! Really rich, fresh flavors on an excellent roll. If we lived Northern Liberties, stopping in often for a banh mi lunch would be a no brainer.

For something to share, grab an order of vegetable spring rolls and Thuy’s delicious chicken salad. The latter is a very light and fresh dish made with shaved cabbage, pulled poached chicken breast, toasted peanuts, fresh herbs and lemon. We cleaned the plate. The simple spring rolls are delicately fried, adding the perfect little crunch to your meal.

Lettuce wraps come with fresh mustard leaves, green lettuce, lots of herbs, pickled daikon radish, pickled carrot and rice noodles, plus a bowl of house made fish sauce dressing for dipping. We loved this sauce, which Thuy said is mixed with a little water and sugar to make it slightly less pungent. Delicious. The staff at Same Same will also show you how to properly roll a lettuce wrap, including the green lettuce inside a mustard leaf to make it stronger. Who knew?! We ordered the tender chicken thighs marinated with lemongrass, ginger, fish sauce and a bit of chili.

Overall, the food at Same Same was light, tasty and very fresh. We ate a lot but never felt stuffed and trust that Chad and Thuy make sure the experience/ingredients are authentic to the streets of Vietnam.

*Kid-friendly? Absolutely. Casual atmosphere, colorful finger foods and smoothies, and a resident baby (Chad and Thuy's own 3 month old!) make it a great place to bring along the kids. Our little guy tried really hard to get his fingers on a spring roll but he'll have to grow some teeth first.

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