A storefront restaurant in Fells Point might not seem special, especially one offering pan-Asian tapas. After all, there are several Asian places and a number of small-plate venues already in the neighborhood.
But after your first visit to Sam’s Kid, you’ll probably get a craving to return soon for the vibrant, freshly prepared fusion food. We did. Various spring rolls, dumplings, noodle soups, sushi, and entrees like ginger chicken and Szechuan beef revel in their various ingredients and preparations and look as proud as beauty contestants in their dainty floral dishes.
It’s comfortable here. The setting is bold yet soothing with lipstick red and purple curvy couches that fit together like sexy samba dancers, a long sage-colored banquette with tables, a bright splash of a flower mural on one wall, and crisp monochrome white on the others. Bare wood tables and floors are simple and sophisticated.
An upstairs dining room and outdoor tables in the thick of Broadway foot traffic provide additional seating. There is also a small bar in the back with Crayola-hued stools in pastel and primary shades, though we’ve never seen anyone actually drink there. Too bad. It looks cozy. But it seems to be mostly a location for picking up carryout orders and for the staff to pour drinks.
Beer, sake (including sparkling sake), and wine are available. We like the freshly brewed peach iced tea, although we would have appreciated a refill, or, at least, an inquiry as to whether we wanted another drink. But our lunchtime waitress was busy, handling myriad duties.
That seems typical of the staff. Don’t misunderstand. They’re friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful with suggestions, but they wear more hats than a working mom.
On both of our visits, the one server on duty greeted and seated diners, made cocktails, placed orders, delivered food, and bussed all the tables, inside and out. We were glad it wasn’t crowded.
Our waiter in the evening warned us that the kitchen produces dishes just like any other tapas restaurant, meaning plates would be delivered to the table when they are ready. You might get your main dish before your salad, or you could get both at the same time. What happens is that eventually you end up with numerous dishes on the table.
And such was the case with us. We were soon nibbling on various items scattered around us like fallen leaves but found ourselves coming back to the dan dan noodle soup and skewer combination plate. The soup embraced us with its succor. We think it challenges the proverbial powers of chicken-noodle soup and plan to consume it again if we get the sniffles—and even if we don’t.
The soup’s fragrant, steaming broth (odd, but you pay $1 extra for the liquid) was laden with shreds of spicy Szechuan pork, rich peanut-sesame flavors, spinach, napa cabbage, bok choy, and bean sprouts with tender egg noodles. Served in a large bowl, it’s enough for two meals—or one hearty appetite.
The skewer combination plate has many charms besides being a great dish to share. It features two skewers each of plump grilled shrimp, yakitori chicken (traditional Japanese kebabs), and tofu with peanut sauce. The soft blocks of tofu, crisped on the exterior, were delectable.
The kitchen also succeeded with pad Thai. A big heap of rice noodles was generously coated with a fish-sauce blend and enveloped with moist chicken pieces, bean sprouts, tomatoes, basil, and crushed peanuts in a generous meld.
We also liked the shrimp and coconut “big plate.” Five jumbo shrimp were stir-fried with farm-fresh green beans, carrot rounds, broccoli florets, and sweet red-pepper slices, and mounded around rice, all good vehicles to sop up the alluring spicy coconut-cream sauce. If possible, this dish was even better the next day for lunch.
There’s also a selection of sushi rolls on the menu, including a soft-shell crab roll and a veggie roll with sun-dried tomatoes, cucumber, basil, and cream cheese. Our waiter steered us toward the crunchy spicy scallop roll, a fine choice. The plump slices created a pleasant yin-yang of textures and flavors in our mouths.
There were a few down notes. The ocean spring rolls with shrimp and scallops were essentially tasteless except for the accompanying sweet Thai chili sauce. Also, the wrappers were crisp but tasted too much of cooking oil.
We also found the seaweed salad unexciting. While the fronds were a lively green and dusted with sesame seeds, the dressing was too bland to give the dish a kick.
Sam’s Kid—the owners, yup, are the children of a guy named Sam—offers two desserts, but only the banana tempura was available the evening we visited. And while we couldn’t try the chocolate bread pudding that night, we were happy with our light, sweet ending. A firm banana is wrapped in batter, deep-fried, sliced, and squiggled with chocolate.
The restaurant has fused together the right plates with competitive prices. It also manages to stand out in an area overflowing with choices.