Saturday, July 13, 2024

A dish at The Eaves in Somerville’s Bow Market in Union Square. (Photo: The Eaves via Instagram)

The Eaves at Bow Market in Somerville may be the hottest ticket in town. Part of the reason is its small size (20-ish seats, including the bar), but it’s more about the fine Vietnamese concept catching fire thanks to the success of proprietors Vinh Le and Duong Huynh’s Cicada Coffee Bar on Cambridge’s Prospect Street, which morphed into a dinner spot that serves casual fine Vietnamese fare as well. The Eaves is much more of an event by comparison, and one you need to plan for: It’s open only Thursday through Sunday and there are those limited seats – make a reservation or forget about it. Even for the eight or so seats at the bar you need to plan ahead or be left out of a unique dining experience. 

The Eaves is tucked away in a recess behind the Remanent Brewery. Entering the warm red glow is like stepping into the cinematic Vietnam of “The Quiet American” (2002) or the French Indochina setting of “The Lover” (1992). It’s elegant yet informal, casual yet intimate, a great date-night destination or for a group nosh and bawdy chat with friends. It’s got the cozy vibe of a Japanese izakaya. Le, who is from Vietnam and was a 2023 James Beard semifinalist, designed the layout himself. The bar serves selected Japanese whiskeys, Asian ales, a short list of curated wines and, as you might suspect, Vietnamese rice wine.

I scored an 8:30 p.m. slot on a Sunday and a lesson that the menu is not vast, and it varies; don’t get too invested in what you see online or read about here, but rest assured there will be pho, and there will be duck. 

The sultry vibe of The Eaves in Somerville. (Photo: The Eaves via Instagram)

It was the tail end of a typically busy week at The Eaves. For my starter I wanted the bắp xào tép (corn with micro shrimp, scallion coconut and oil) but was told the shrimp had run out. When I asked about the chicken and a slawed vegetable pseudo-salad dish, I was told there was also no chicken to be had. Disappointment, to be sure, but after some back and forth with my attentive server I went in for an impromptu spin on that salad with confit duck. That was a win – flavorful and pungent, with a nice blend of textures. For my main, I signed on for the duck and pho entree, which was essentially a plate of neatly arranged pho, lean, sliced duck breast and a side of broth to dip the delectables in. The pho (not housemade) had some of the freshest Vietnamese noodles I’ve ever had, and the duck again was cooked perfectly, with no fat – just the rich flavorful essence. As a fairly big duck fan, I was in heaven. 

The Eaves sources most of its food locally and has a strong seafood leaning. The gỏi cá Boston is a tartare preparation of local mackerel, bluefish or fluke. On the bigger side, besides pho, is the Mekong Delta, a filet of hake seared brown (you can get a vegetarian mushroom variation too) and served in a shallow bowl atop rice and a sauce of turmeric, lemongrass, cashew and coconut milk. It feels like the Eaves signature dish and a must-try for a future trip.

The Eaves, 1 Bow Market Way, Union Square, Somerville

Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.