Mar 28, 2018
By Ellery D. Margay
You may have noticed the new sign in the Safeway shopping center—a glowing bowl and chopsticks above the space recently vacated by Pho 90. This is Simmer, Rohnert Park’s bustling new Vietnamese eatery, and while I’m told that the minimalist signage is temporary, in a sense it almost seems apt.
Like its predecessor, Simmer’s star item is pho, the fragrant rice noodle soup that has, in recent years, seen a remarkable upsurge in popularity. The broth—beef, chicken, and vegetable—is made in-house daily in a lengthy two-man process, its distinctive taste owed to its spices: coriander, anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, shallots, and grilled ginger root, as well as rock sugar and plenty of salt. With an array of proteins and fresh toppings to choose from, each bowl is customizable—an ideal pick for the individualist foodie.
Their menu is diverse, its offerings vibrant and dynamic, boasting several house signatures—updated interpretations of time-honored favorites.
The shaking beef, tender filet mignon pan-seared with onion and bell pepper, is a must try. So is the lean grilled pork, cooked to order in their very own BBQ glaze, and the rich and complex yellow curry. Plant-based diners will delight in the artful salads, towering spring rolls, and the true showstopper, the lemongrass tofu—a lighter take on a classic. Bite-sized cubes are rolled in cornstarch and zesty lemongrass and flash fried for just 30 seconds, resulting in a textural novelty—a crisp, golden morsel, airy as a pillow. Stellar dips and sauces complement each item—umami soy, smooth peanut, tangy sweet and sour—all freshly mixed from original recipes.
Restaurateur Sonny Le, fondly credits the foundations of most dishes to his mom, a native of the coastal city of Da Nang, but over the years, the menu has evolved. “Different ingredients are available here,” he says, “sometimes better ones. Our food is cleaner while still retaining its flavor.” In discussing his craft, Sonny holds nothing back. He’s a believer in sharing the wisdom of experience with his fellow Vietnamese Americans. Be it through skill, luck, or a bit of both, the food biz has treated him well, and he’s happy to pay it forward.
Sonny’s story is an inspirational one. Having studied math and economics, he was headed down a different path when older brother, Nha Le, proposed that they open a restaurant—Simmer Vietnamese Kitchen on Petaluma’s busy N. McDowell Blvd. Now five years later, business is flourishing, and Sonny has struck out on his own, inviting family and longtime friends aboard.
Good things are to come—among them a wine and beer bar. “It’s my second restaurant,” says Sonny, “but in a way it feels like my first.” And I think I know what he means; that pioneering spirit is alive and well, and it is infectious.
Simmer, 6368 Commerce Blvd,, Rohnert Park, 707- 843-7416
Hours: M-F 11:30-2:30, M-Th 4:30-9, F-Sat 4:30-10, Sun: 12-8
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