Chef Duy (pronounced DooWee) Tran, 24, is no newcomer to excellent experimental cuisine. The owner of recently opened DooWee & Rice in Somerville, Tran has been working—and cooking—in the Boston area for years. After attending Le Cordon Bleu he worked as a personal chef and then at Wonder Bar in Boston, where he began to entertain the idea of opening his own place. This idea has come to fruition in the form of DooWee & Rice.
Located at 868 Broadway (formerly the home of East Asia), the restaurant’s unique name originates from the phonetic spelling of Tran’s first name and his specialty of unique rice dishes. I had my first taste of the new spot less than two weeks after it first opened its doors to the public. The brand new restaurant already feels like a Somerville staple, with elephant vases on every table and wonderful aromas escaping through the kitchen into the small dining room.
Tran, who is a fan of break dancing and also blogging, is of Vietnamese descent, and this serves as his culinary jumping-off point—DooWee & Rice offers several Vietnamese classics, such as Vietnamese Squid Salad and Homemade Vietnamese Eggrolls. However, dishes are not limited to traditional Vietnamese fare. Tran calls his restaurant a “small fusion test kitchen” because he infuses all different types of cuisine into his recipes. Look out for his spicy Hunan shrimp baozis and spicy ginger essence salsa with wonton chips.
This fusion-style model allows Tran to cook “whatever [he] want[s] to make” with “whatever is fresh” so that patrons can always have cheap, fresh, and original fare. He emphasized that he does not use any added salt in his dishes.
Tran recommended that I try the basic and popular Steak and Rice, at $9. As he went back into the kitchen to prepare the dish, which he custom-made to accommodate my nut allergy, I was brought a cup of the Limited Fresh Seafood Soup, $5, which is made with Tran’s own mother’s recipe. The cup was filled with shrimp, crab, eggs, quail eggs, squid, and mushrooms, along with a light and tasty broth.
Tran joined me as I enjoyed my Steak and Rice and described the two sauces drizzled over the steak—“great white” yogurt sauce and Vietnamese Chimichurri sauce. The ingredients were fresh, the steak was tender, and the personalized service and neighborhood feel were unbeatable.
The menu at DooWee & Rice is constantly changing, although some of the most popular (and simple) dishes—including his Chicken & Rice, Steak & Rice, and Crispy Chicken Hearts—will stay put for the foreseeable future. There is a 10% discount for college students and late hours on Friday nights, perfect for grabbing a bite after a long night at the Pub—or Tisch. DooWee & Rice also delivers within a one-mile radius.