Singhs Vietnamese opened its first brick-and-mortar location on the St. Mary’s Strip just over a month ago, but Northsiders have been privy to the unique blend of Vietnamese meets Tex dishes since 2013, when the food truck by the same name was launched.
And while the menu is similar, the uniqueness of the flavors has evolved since opening the St. Mary’s location.
The space is muted. Clean corners, and a still-empty bar gives way to a tiger mural courtesy of a high-school best friend. There’s nothing particularly striking about the space, all 2,000 square-feet of it, but that sleekness does allow eaters to focus on the food.
For most diners, it could very well be the first time enjoying Singhs, which recently closed its truck operation on the corner of Loop 1604 and White Fawn Drive. But new patrons shouldn’t expect traditional Vietnamese fare because, well, this isn’t that.
Singhs is the story of Louis Singh’s mother, who ran away from Can Tho, a small village in South Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, in her teens to find work in Saigon. She eventually met her future husband, Louis’ father, there and had three children. Fast-forward to the Fall of Saigon in 1974 when Papa Singh, a contractor with the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, was put on one of the last helicopters out of the country. Mama Singh believed he was dead for more than a year. But the family was reunited several years later in Helotes, just outside of San Antonio.
Louis was born in the ’80s, and he’s wanted to share his family recipes since he was 15. He teamed up with high-school friend Eric Treviño after dabbling in bands and sound-editing and catering, and Singhs was born.
Don’t go expecting to find your favorite pho – you won’t find it at Singhs.
But do go to find great, 10-hour braised brisket atop vermicelli noodles or bún, paired with fresh cucumbers and lightly pickled daikon and carrots to help cut through that unctuous meatiness. There’s also fried chili-oil ribs if you’re feeling particularly ravenous, and Saigon egg rolls, rolled by hand — at times by Mama Singh as she shares her story. They’re the most labor-intensive menu item, but worth the cost for its crisp and delicate casing.
You’ll also enjoy Singh’s take on bánh mì, served on a buttery roll instead of a crusty baguette but just as good, with each protein somehow more tender than the next.
Opening a brick-and-mortar location on a new side of town means favorites have shifted. Those now include noodles and goi, a shaved cabbage salad, nearly perfect with shrimp or chicken, dressed with a light drizzle of aioli.
And then there’s the Mama’s jasmine rice, a fragrant number with turmeric, ginger and coconut topped with your choice of meat or seasonal veggies. It’s Singhs’ answer to arroz con pollo. It’s the result of Singh growing up in the heart of Texas, and sharing his Vietnamese mother’s recipes – and it’s a welcome addition to the St. Mary’s Strip fare.
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