Walking into S.E.A. Bowl, I was unsure what to expect. I love Vietnamese food and had heard a ton of good things about it. So, when I heard they were participating in Elk Grove Restaurant Week, I knew I had to go in and see what they had to offer. Little did I know, they offered so much more than Vietnamese cuisine!
I arrived right around 10:30 AM, when they opened, and I could already smell all the spices I knew were incorporated into their dishes. S.E.A. Bowl looked nice, clean, and the tufted booth seating made it look fancier than the typical casual restaurant. The waitress seated us immediately and let us know about the $35 special they had for 2 diners during Elk Grove Restaurant Week. As I dined, I noticed that the music playing varied from Korean to Hmong to Thai. How neat is it that this restaurant played a variety of songs from many Asian backgrounds? It was great to recognize my own Hmong artists! Already, I was impressed with the diversity, despite it being a Cambodian-owned restaurant.
While we looked over the menu, the owner, Mora Som, greeted us. I could tell she took so much pride in the food she poured so much love into. Mora explained that S.E.A. Bowl her second restaurant. Her other restaurant, S.E.A. Hut, has been around for 2 years on Elk Grove Florin Blvd and Elk Grove Blvd. Previously, she co-owned Taste of Angkor with her siblings.
Her passion for cooking started at a young age. However, Mora shared that they didn’t consider opening up a restaurant seriously until her family had to hold a fundraiser after losing her brother a few years back. The fundraiser was successful, and it helped her to contemplate the possibility of chasing her passion for food and cooking. A few years later, Taste of Angkor was born! It has since been sold to a relative, so Mora is able to focus on S.E.A. Bowl and S.E.A. Hut. The difference between these two restaurants is that S.E.A. Bowl puts an emphasis on soup noodles and dry noodle dishes.
I could not wait to dive in! The S.E.A. Sampler caught my eyes first on the menu. Next, the variety of different soup noodles had me reading all the descriptions thoroughly. Typically, in many of the pho diners, it’s a similar soup base with different cuts of meat. However, S.E.A. Bowl surprised me! They had 8 different types of soup noodles. For example, I enjoy Kasoy, but rarely find it available at a restaurant. Kasoy is a noodle soup made with ground chicken, fermented mung bean and tomato paste, shrimp, tripe and meatballs. They also offer the scrumptious Kapoon and the popular Cambodian fish noodle soup Nom Banh Chok.
Since the sampler appetizer caught my eye, I knew I wanted to get that. However, as I looked over the $35 special, I realized it also came with the Oxtail Noodle, Prahok Ktiss—a dip of chicken, coconut milk, and spices—as well as a Fried Banana with Gunther’s Coconut Ice Cream. Now, I’m sure you know why I went for the Elk Grove Restaurant Week special. It came with just about everything I wanted to try!
The S.E.A. Sampler was served shortly, and I am pretty sure I ate all 8 items in a minute or two. The beef and chicken skewers were so very tender; not dry like some places can be. Meanwhile, the egg rolls were crisp, tasty, and had meat in them, unlike some other restaurants that fill their egg rolls full of noodles and cabbage with no ground meat to be found! And the cheesy wontons were delicious and packed full of flavor. I probably should have ordered a few more of those, since they always go so fast!
After that, I dug into the Prahok Ktiss dip. Let me just say, I probably could have skipped the rice and veggies and gobbled the dip up alone. I would not be surprised if you did this upon tasting it! It reminds me of a dry curry, packed full of incredible flavor that begs to be inhaled! Next, I moved on to the Oxtail Soup. I can’t explain how wholesome and delicious this soup is. It reminds me of home! Like most Southeast Asian restaurants, tables are full of condiments. Typically, I generously dress my dishes up with sauces like Hoisin, Soy, and Sriracha. However, I am proud to say that the Oxtail Soup was absolutely divine on its own. You NEED to try it plain before adding any other sauces!
Lastly, the Fried Banana topped off with Gunther’s Coconut Ice Cream was the happy ending I needed to feel complete with my meal. While I could have selected Green Tea Ice Cream instead, the Coconut flavor gave the dessert a tropical feel. On this cold day, I imagined myself thousands of miles away in Tahiti, enjoying every single bite of the dessert.
Did S.E.A. Bowl meet my expectations? Absolutely, positively. From the appetizer to the soup to the dessert, if you’ve looking for a Southeast Asian restaurant that is different, offers a variety of Asian flavors, and has generous, delicious servings, you’ve found it. Not to mention, immersing yourself into the music and having staff that are attentive and courteous is a huge plus!
In short, stop on by when you get a chance!
9635 E Stockton Blvd, Elk Grove, CA 95624
Saturday 10:30 A.M. – 8 P.M.
Sunday 10:30 A.M. – 5 P.M.
Monday 10:30 A.M. – 8 P.M.
Wednesday 10:30 A.M. – 8 P.M.
Thursday 10:30 A.M. – 8 P.M.
Friday 10:30 A.M. – 8 P.M.