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FIRST LOOK: Sovereign Kitchen

Michelin-awarded Iron Chef Vietnam lands in Downtown San Diego

By Troy Johnson | Photography by Paul Body

On June 4, San Diego gets a new force in Vietnamese food. Michelin-awarded, James Beard “Tastemaker” Michael Bao Huynh heads up Sovereign Kitchen + Bar, a concept from Asian restaurateur Alex Thao (Rama, Lucky Liu’s). Sovereign takes over the marquee corner spot at 5th and Island Streets in the Gaslamp (formerly Royal Thai). It’ll be the first and only Vietnamese restaurant in Downtown (outside of pho noodle joints), located right next to the incoming $100 million Pendry Hotel.

Huynh grew up in Saigon and learned to cook at the side of his mother. The family fled Vietnam by boat in 1982 and were rescued from open waters by the USS Midway, now stationed in San Diego. Once landed in New York, he changed his name to Michael (in homage to Michael Jackson), and eventually opened a series of restaurants in New York—OBAO, Baoguette, Bao 111, Mai House, Bia, Pho Sure, etc.—becoming one of the city’s top names in Vietnamese food.

New York Magazine once named Huynh the city’s “Best New Chef,” and Michelin twice gave him a Bib Award for OBAO. In 2013, he returned to Vietnam and coached the nation’s team for the 2014 Asia Pacific Bocuse d’Or.

Thao and Huynh also operate the to-go concept next door called Food Shop (already open), which serves banh mis, pho, etc. Sovereign’s menu will include rolls (crispy fried crab, grilled pork meatball, etc.), salads (spicy grilled hangar steak), meats and poultry (wok-seared garlic beef bo luc lac, stir-fried lemongrass, crispy pork belly, coconut-curry chicken, etc.), noodles (pho, mi quang, bbq pork vermicelli, etc.) and rice options (crab-and-lobster fried rice, roasted duck fried rice, etc.)

It’s scheduled to open to the public June 4. For now, please enjoy the first known photos in the universe of Sovereign Kitchen + Bar. If the art looks familiar, it’s the same intense gal that graced the walls at the recently shuttered Gang Kitchen.

FIRST LOOK: Sovereign Kitchen

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1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA