I participated in 8 Days of Eats, South Street’s version of Restaurant Week, by visiting the unfortunate pharmaceutical-sounding Sonam, a self-proclaimed “global dim sum” restaurant (read eclectic small plates) on the east end of South Street.
Previous participation in such restaurant weeks has proven that vegetarians don’t get that much of a break during what is meant to be a money-saving way to dine at restaurants. This is because vegetarian dishes are usually the cheapest on the menu. The same rang true for our experience at Sonam. We saved $7 between the two of us (one vegetarian and one pescatarian), or the equivalent of one of Sonam’s cheaper small plates. The fact that Sonam is BYOB is what really saved us money!
We started with the S’mores, three wheat cracker sandwiches filled with fig reduction and goat cheese marshmallow. These were awesome! The goat cheese marshmallow is really just a nub of goat cheese mimicking a marshmallow. Sweet, but not too sweet. I’m stealing this idea at some point in my hors d’oeuvre-making life.
Naan bread with a bright and tangy roasted red pepper dip (my fav), and an earthy sunflower seed dip (the boys fav). Not the most exciting dish in the bunch, but besides the edamame and the cucumber noodles, which we didn’t order, we were running out of vegetarian and fish dishes on Sonam’s small, but thoughtful menu.
Cold soup duo of white gazpacho and crème fraiche in a cucumber cup, and Asian pear and sake soup in a pear cup. Loved these! I wish I had eaten the ginger spiced pear cups before popping the cucumber cups, because the unexpectedly spicy gazpacho ruined my palate for a brief bit.
Baramundi in rice papillote with artichoke puree, orange segments, mint, Myer lemon vinegrette, and a crispy fish chip. The boy loved this dish! The rice papillote is akin to a dumpling, and is an edible play on paper-wrapped fish. The acidic Myer lemon vinegrette made the dish.
I had to order the Mexican mac and cheese with queso blanco, pico de gallo, diced avocado, corn tortilla crust and sour cream. I’m a mac and cheese purist, and this is not really mac and cheese, but noodles coated lightly with a mild cheese sauce and topped with a taco salad crust. A nice Mexican-flavored interpretation of mac and cheese.
These bread pudding waffles topped with vanilla ice cream and strawberries sound ho-hum, but they might have been the best and most filling thing we ate all night! The waffles are made out of bread pudding which is made out of croissants. Enough said!
The crème brulee duos at Sonam are changed out nightly. On this particular night, lemongrass and coconut crème brulees were on the menu. When I mentioned to our server that I’m not a huge fan of coconut, she offered that the kitchen would make the next day’s white chocolate and espresso crème brulee duo. The creme brulees had a grainy texture, one more so than the other, and the white chocolate crème brulee had a bitter caramelized sugar top.All in all, we enjoyed sampling the menu from Sonam, with about half of our dishes coming out real winners.
I like the fact that Sonam leisurely staggered our plates, and took notice of when we finished each plate. We never had more than two plates on our table at once.
After our one and a half to two-hour dinner, we paid our bill, and lingered about ten minutes to finish the last sips in my wine glass. We were then offered complimentary limoncello by our ever pleasant server, if we would vacate our table and sit in the lounge area so a waiting party could have our table. I found this odd, but, having never worked in a restaurant, I really don't know why this happened. The dinner was long not by our doings, but the kitchen's. The party beside us was there longer than us, and was at the same point in their meal. There were other open tables. Who knows? We took the limoncello!
Sonam’s site says they change their small menu seasonally, but they’d be wise to change it more frequently. We pretty much went through all of the vegetarian and fish plates, and even a party of three or four omnivores could sample Sonam's entire menu in one sitting.
The small plates may leave you hungry, though, if you don’t order at least the number of plates the two of us did. I woke up at the next morning when my stomach tried to eat itself!
223 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Sun., Mon., Wed., Thurs., 5-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5-11 p.m.; Tues., closed