Kim’s: 23 years in Encinitas, ’nuff said

Seriously, how many restaurants have that kind of staying power anymore? That in itself is reason enough to check this place out. And I must admit, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that after 12 years in Encinitas I had not paid Kim a visit. What was I thinking? Maybe it was my unfamiliarity with Vietnamese food but now knowing what I was missing I’m bummed that it took me so long to get there.
Kim and her family have served such notables as Ravi Shankar and Oliver Stone and there was a rumor that George Harrison had dined there though they could not substantiate that.
OK, enough about the notable diners, let’s get down to food business here. First a little history on the cuisine. Vietnamese cuisine is known for its common use of fish sauce, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. Vietnamese dishes use a wide range of herbs, including lemongrass, mint, coriander and basil. Throughout all regions of Vietnam, the emphasis is always on serving fresh vegetables and/or fresh herbs as essential side dishes along with dipping sauce.
They have a number of vegetarian dishes, influenced by Buddhist beliefs. The most common meats used in Vietnamese cooking are pork, chicken, shrimp and various seafood. Beef is used less commonly but does show up occasionally.
Kim’s has more than 250 entrées so for the novice it can be a little intimidating. Me being a novice, I left dinner up to Kim. A bowl of rice papers was presented that looked like transparent tortillas and were to be used to wrap up any of the dishes we ordered either individually or as kind of a Vietnamese burrito or stuffed cabbage-like concoction. They were dipped in water for 10 seconds to soften them up and were quite fun.
We started with the combination Pho, the noodle dish that had shrimp, beef and chicken with fresh basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, lime and jalapeno. Wow, this was crazy good and was one of many that will bring me back. Next was a shrimp and beef lemon salad with basil. The beef was sliced thin then poached or steamed and was so delicate and flavorful. Soft rolls filled with shrimp and pork with rice and vermicelli noodles with basil and lettuce and a peanut sauce dip was next.
Then we took a deep breath.
Nicely flavored ground beef in grape leaves was delicious and Kim said they improvised a bit with the grape leaves as they were not traditional Vietnamese fare. Hey, it worked and that’s all that mattered. We then sampled a very interesting and tasty ground shrimp that was then formed, skewered and grilled. A garlic fried spicy shrimp and scallop followed that was a nice crispy indulgence.
The real treat came next when we each received a whole, fresh young coconut with a straw for drinking the wonderful water and a spoon for scooping out the delicious coconut meat. It was so fresh and invigorating; I guess they were getting us ready for the dessert of fried bananas with mango and coconut ice cream. All of which were out of this world.
So, if for some reason you have not been to this Encinitas landmark, I would highly encourage it. I would not say Kim’s is cheap, but given the quality and freshness of the ingredients, it’s well worth the moderate prices.
Kim’s is located at 745 S. Highway 101, suite J103 in downtown Encinitas. They are open six days a week, Tuesday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. till 9:30 p.m.; Saturday noon to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday noon to 9 p.m. Call (760) 942-4816 or visit them online at www.kimsvietnameseand chinese.com for more information.

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