Watami Sushi & Sake Bar Address: 15 King St. N,…
Songkuza Southeast Asia Noodle Hut
220 King Street N, Waterloo ON N2J 2Y7
Take-away lunch for two: $25-$30
Open daily (check website for times)
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There’s not much to the place: a few tables, nothing to speak of hanging on the walls in terms of decor, a restroom, a beverage cooler, a point-of-sales, and a look into the kitchen. The place is Songkuza near Wilfrid Laurier University, just off of King Street. And, you know, it doesn’t really need anything else.
The bare bones approach replicates a take-away shack that you might see on the roadside in southern Asia: you drop by, grab a carton of fresh, hot grub and go sit somewhere and eat. Then you’re on your way again.
Songkuza further keeps it simple by serving in take-away containers that mimic a dark porcelain bowl that you might eat bibimbap from. But, ah, the bowls of food. That’s the distinguishing factor here. Good and inexpensive: most things on the menu are $10, with a few, like their version of banh mi, clocking in at $7.95. There are spring rolls made with Perth County pork that go for $2, too.
The restaurant has been around for only a short time, but it likely has captured a following for cheap eats, quickly prepared from-scratch-cooking that’s no fuss. There are a dozen or so dishes on the simple straightforward menu and many have the inspiration of home-cooked goodness: several of the cooks are either Laotian or Thai and they produce in the Songkuza kitchen what their families eat at home. I like that they are cooking real family recipes and staying true to their heritage.
There are curries and pad Thai and braised beef pad see ew that make use of those fresh ingredients cooked to order. They make the broth for pho, and there’s General “Lao” chicken, a gaeng pangeng jasmine rice and chicken dish with straw mushrooms, as well as ga boon, a pretty interesting and delicious dish which blends either red or green curry, meatballs, pork, vermicelli and the crisp vibrancy of green beans. It’s my favourite.
There are daily specials and group combos for four to eight people that run from $40 to $77. The Monday special is referred to as Adventure Menu: it’s usually something that’s a bit of a flavour exploration for the cooks themselves — the price varies and when they run out, they run out. One Adventure dish, for instance, has been thom kim, a dish of spareribs (or pig’s feet) and hard-boiled egg.
Songkuza also makes fries served with curry, and Saturday is congee day. Nice. Note to self: Visit Songkuza on either Monday or Saturday.