March 29, 2018

Russell Yam and Kitty Tsang, Co-Owners of Som Bo

“Here at Som Bo, we pride ourselves on a well curated menu that mixes and matches with each other seamlessly. In fact, it is designed so well that you can literally order blind and still get a great meal…seriously, try it.” – Kitty

We get the idea that most people don’t think Asian food in itself is healthy. However, for us, it was what we ate all the time growing up…and we grew up just fine [laughs]. We saw the disconnect there and thought maybe we could close the gap. For our executive chef Rob, he wanted to recreate what he ate in his childhood, and for me, I just wanted to bring contemporary Asian food into the spotlight, where people can eat this everyday and feel good about it. Thus began Som Bo, which means three treasures in Cantonese.” –Russell

Russell, Rob and Kitty are the driving forces behind the newly opened Asian restaurant, Som Bo, which serves up classic Asian dishes with a progressive chef-driven twist. Russell, co-founder, alongside Rob, who is the co-founder and executive chef opened Som Bo as a tribute to their heritage and favorite childhood foods. Kitty, sharing the same vision, helps with the marketing aspect of Som Bo. The three friends were all childhood natives of Chinatown; they grew up eating the same kind of food unique to their Chinese heritage. As they grew older, they began to notice that the food that they had grown up with was severely misrepresented. Customers looking to enjoy Chinese food would either have to give up a lot of money and time to eat gourmet Chinese food or settle for subpar, and usually unhealthy, fast Chinese food. Looking to bridge that gap and give customers the best of all worlds, Som Bo was created to show how Chinese food can be affordable, healthy and quick.

Usually, Asian food that is served at this speed is usually greasy and unhealthy; with Som Bo, we really strive to make sure our food is tasty, healthy and convenient. We hope that providing the customer with a plate that can deliver all that will make them look at Chinese food in a different way.” – Kitty

In the world of Som Bo, the food and ideology deviates from the established norms. First off, the quality of the food prepared is superb compared to the type of food that consumers on the go have come to expect from a “fast” food establishment. This is hugely thanks to the relationships that Rob and Russell had built from their past culinary endeavors. Rob has worked at many well-established restaurants in New York and Russell also co-owns The Pokéspot, a popular poké chain in New York. All ingredients are hand picked from high quality purveyors and the team focuses on ingredients that are fresh and in season. Russell claims that while going this route might impact profit margins, he and the team are willing to make that sacrifice because it is the right thing to do for the customer and for the end goal; if Som Bo is to bring Asian food to the spotlight, they don’t want to do it half heartedly. When other restaurants think of healthy, they think of setting limits on portions, on flavor, on just about everything. The team at Som Bo believes that healthy does not need to come with limits if the food you eat is high quality and cooked with passion. In Kitty’s words, “When everything is a good choice, it’s hard to go wrong.”

There is no doubt that Som Bo is very innovative, both in outlook and product. However, upon a closer look (and bite), one can tell there is a strong blend of Chinese roots and heritage in their recipe for success. We’re talking heavy uses of soy garlic, ginger, rice wine vinegar, and many household Asian seasonings. So whether you might be well versed in Asian cuisine or just getting to know it, the dishes will be authentic. For anyone that has had the Chinese three treasures rice box, they know it’s all about being able to mix and match three choices to form a meal to your own liking. Som Bo offers the same concept but in a more sophisticated manner. Each and every item on the menu at Som Bo was carefully chosen to go well with one and other; the team looked at each item’s flavor profile, texture, and compatibility. To achieve this, many dishes had gone through much iteration before making the actual menu board. This micro inspection of each ingredient helps to make sure they all fit the macro picture of the entire menu; this ensure that the customer will be pleased with whatever choices they make.

I personally am very proud to be on this team. I feel like me, Russell and Rob all are very proud of where we came from and our upbringing. To be able to share our point of view, our culture, our heritage through a media such as food that everyone can enjoy is something we are all really passionate about and proud of. It’s nice that we get to do it for ourselves on our own term and not needing someone else to rebrand Chinese food for us.” – Kitty

Through it all, Som Bo is more than just a place to grab some great Chinese food. For Kitty, who comes from a marketing background, overseeing the design aspect of Som Bo, from decor to its ideology, is an ode to her upbringing and heritage. Making sure Som Bo serves high quality food within a clean place is her way of helping others discover the culture and food that she loves so much. For Russell, Som Bo is an endeavor that services a much-neglected space in the New York culinary scene. The Pokéspot, which is one of Russell past projects, was started after a trip to California; Russell realized that good poke wasn’t too accessible for New Yorkers so he sought to solve that problem himself. Som Bo was created along the same goal: to bring New Yorkers something different. In this case, it’s the perfect medium of taste, price, and nutrition in a very authentic Asian package. To Russell, Som Bo isn’t just another Asian restaurant but it is the first of its class.

Growing up in New York definitely influenced me in starting Som Bo. Being raised in New York, you get exposed to so many different cultures and ideas. I get inspired by how proud people are of their heritage and culture yet are still so kind to one another even though their backgrounds might not be the same. Starting Som Bo was my way of adding to the melting pot of New York; adding my culture and heritage to the mix while also providing value to my fellow New Yorkers.” –Russell

Som Bo is located at 143 8th Ave, New York, NY 10011.


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