NEW TO ONE of the hottest up-and-coming districts in Savannah, The Vault Kitchen and Market looks to be a cornerstone for the people of the Starland District, similar to the bank which once occupied its current space.
The latest from the local super restaurant group built by Ele and Sean Tran, this space promises to continue being a staple in this community for years to come. One of their first attempts at accomplishing that task was their decision to incorporate a number of the major interior design elements left when the bank closed into the layout of the restaurant.
The big vault door towards the back of the restaurant holds a more intimate seating area, also hinting towards the restaurant’s name and intention.
Ele and Sean continue to rewrite the script in a way that’s original in atmosphere and fearless in approach. Their restaurants are usually fresh in design and unique in methodology, and they carry out these intentions through consistent execution.
I’m always impressed with how their ever growing number of local restaurants remain true to their intention. And The Vault does not disappoint.
Depending on what you are in the mood for, you can either scan their culturally vibrant main menu, or you can have a sushi experience and find some creative house rolls to pair with some traditional ones.
The first time I tried their spot, I went with their “main” menu, just so I could taste some of their traditional inspirations. Immediately I could feel the menu dripping with Thai spices and flavors.
But I was surprised to see a few things I’m not used to, like Korean BBQ tacos and roasted duck dumplings. So I grabbed an order of dumplings to start, and while I waited ate a few bites of my girlfriend’s vegetarian spring rolls.
Honestly, the best spring roll I’ve had in a minute. Execution was the theme in every course, as the dumplings and spring rolls were cooked to perfection.
When you are deciding on your entree, the menu design navigates through separating the dishes by land and by sea. The by-land options all seemed rich with Thai flavors, whether you decide to dig into the grilled steak, acutely named the “Crying Tiger” served with a dry Rhai chili sauce, or the grilled pork, served at the perfect temperature, topped with a Lao hot sauce.
All of the main plates seemed packed with flavor and garnished with some serious spice.
The Vault serves chicken three different traditional ways, and the next time I eat here, I will be trying the “Chicken Claypot” which is topped with caramel sauce, curry Thai chili, ginger, Thai green eggplants, and rice.
This time around I landed by-sea, and the banana leaf steamed fish caught my attention right away. A large piece of white fish, steamed in a banana leaf with an herb mousse, and served in a bamboo steamer. I added an order of sticky rice with it, as I incorporated that with the flavors of the banana leaf and fish, which were out of this world. The fish was sweet with a spicy aftertaste. Incredibly unique flavor profile paying homage to a traditional Thai dish.
The second time I landed in this spot, I decided to try their sushi menu. Their house rolls menu was full of creative rolls that I would suggest to the most novice of sushi eaters. Tempura shrimp, battered salmon and tuna, and baked eel provide a cooked option for those who may be on the fence of sushi.
They have a list of some classics, as well as a short list of fish to choose from for a traditional nigiri and sashimi. Reasonably priced, and again, the consistent execution of these dishes truly impressed me.
The service was spotty but this is to be expected from a restaurant that is just opening its doors. Here’s to hoping things improve in that department.
At any rate, I am always encouraged to see local restaurants open that I know have the potential to bring an element of cultural diversity to a city that desperately needs it. Anyone participating in creating a unique atmosphere within our food scene is not only helping our industry, but they are helping build a foundation of diversity and acceptance that other industries can then build off of.
No restaurant, chef, or dish is perfect, but it is vital to our city’s growth that we support those who are pushing our mold and way of thinking further. We have to be active participants in our food community in order for things to continue moving forward.
Let’s keep stirring that pot, people.
For more of Jared's food writing, visit www.asliceofthyme.com