You don’t find a ton of higher-end Southeast Asian restaurants in America. This is not a cuisine I would associate with having modern, hip venues to frequent terribly often. Maybe it’s because this is a cuisine that is typically associated with street food. Perhaps it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that the interior of such restaurants isn’t curated to be voguish. Soothsayer in the East Village is bucking the trend.
Soothsayer is a contemporary Vietnamese restaurant from chef Stephan Brezinsky. He came through the impressive kitchens of Il Mulino Prime and Pok Pok before striking out on his own. He has created a fun, hip setting to serve his food. The space is long, with two dining rooms, a substantial bar, and a large open kitchen with a dining counter. The feeling is modern industrial with white washed brick, exposed pipes, and cool slate colors. It is nice enough to any special occasion but relaxed enough that you could come several times weekly.
I am crazy about the food that Brezinsky has created for his restaurant. His dishes are elevated, modern takes on the food I have eaten in markets and streets of Vietnam. The food is still approachable and affordable enough for anyone. Start off with crunchy taro tots smothered in aioli, which you will shovel into your mouth regardless of how hot they are. Their green papaya salad is juicy, spicy & refreshing. They have a bahn mi burger which is the most well-seasoned, insanely delicious take on the classic sandwich. Finally, the smoked duck is the best cooked piece of duck I have ever experienced in my life. Cooked medium rare, with the skin rendered crispy. I couldn’t stop eating it. There are flavorful hits of lemon grass, ginger, fresh herbs, and Thai chili in everything.
To round out your experience there is a great cocktail list and wines on tap. I accidentally on purpose drank about a bucket of their crisp Riesling. Do not miss out on this place! Here’s what we had:
taro “tots” - vietnamese aioli, pork floss, basil
green papaya salad - herbs, ginger, fried shallot, peanut
mussels - oyster sauce, fish sauce, sawtooth
fried rice - duck sausage, smoked chicken, apple
bánh mì burger - beef & pork, pickled carrot & daikon, vietnamese aioli, taro tots
smoked duck - green tea, tamarind, chil
Address: 171 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009
Phone: (212) 475-3171