The Vault Kitchen & Market had a soft opening last Wednesday. Or, as it turned out, not so soft. The Vault, at the corner of Bull and 38th streets in a former Bank of America building, is the latest effort from the Savannah restaurant group Ele and the Chef. Ele and Sean Tran's restaurants have largely Asian menus, but each establishment feels unique and special. The couple certainly doesn't shy away from a challenge, so maybe we should have expected The Vault to open suddenly, as it did Wednesday, in a move that surprised the neighborhood and maybe even some of the restaurant's employees. Since The Vault has been a closely watched project, word started spreading as soon as the doors opened in mid-afternoon even though the market isn't open yet. I wandered up Bull Street a little before 8 p.m. on opening night, and the restaurant was bustling with activity when I got there. All the seats at the small bar were occupied, and nearly half the tables were full. There were even a couple of parties of six, the types of tables that can really strain a new restaurant. Aside from the presence of the vault itself, the interior has been dramatically changed from the building's previous life as a bank. I think the restrooms now occupy the office where I paid off my mortgage. Still, there are some nods to the structure's previous use. The Vault's kitchen is in the area once occupied by tellers, and you'll see a Picasso-esque wall hanging made out of lock boxes. But the bank's windows have been expanded and the wood ceiling exposed. The seats are sleek but comfortable, and the tables have ample space between them. In other words, The Vault has all the makings of a comfortable neighborhood restaurant for lunch and dinner. And what about the food? Patrons can choose a variety of ways to navigate The Vault's menu. That flexibility is appealing to me as a diner, although the varied choices make the menu hard to characterize in a column like this. Four kinds of Asian-influenced tacos top the menu, with orders of two tacos priced at $11.50 or less. There are five kinds of dumplings, with four per serving. Those are all $7.95 and under. There are several salads ($8.95 to $12.95) plus a variety of other appetizers, including vegetarian spring rolls ($5.95) and grilled calamari ($7.95). The main dishes, most of which are priced under $15, include chicken, pork, beef, seafood and vegetarian combinations prepared in various Asian styles. The Vault also has a broad selection of sushi, including appetizers, nigiri, sashimi and rolls. It's really impossible to review a restaurant that has literally just opened, but I got excellent service on opening night even though some other tables apparently did not. And I ordered way, way too much food just for myself. Fortunately, a friend joined me and picked up some of the slack. I started with the roasted duck dumplings ($7.95), which were much thicker and richer than I anticipated. Paired with a salad, those could have been a meal for one. My order of eel nigiri ($5.95) was excellent, but also larger than I expected. And the Wicked Tuna roll ($12.95) - which included battered tuna, cream cheese, asparagus and crab - was nearly a foot long. On my next trip, I'll keep in mind that the portions are so generous and adjust my ordering. Fortunately, The Vault also has a liquor license, so patrons can order cocktails in addition to beer and wine. Sadly, there was controversy about that license for spirits at a recent Savannah City Council meeting despite the fact The Vault's zoning allows liquor by the glass. Alcohol sales can be problematic for struggling neighborhoods, for sure, but the Bull Street corridor at this point will benefit from increased alcohol sales. Restaurateurs will invest more money in the area if they can offer liquor. I live just six blocks away from The Vault, so I'm sure I'll make numerous trips in the coming months. I will likely write another column about it once the market is open - and I'm sure by then the restaurant will have settled into a groove. For now though, it's obvious that the The Vault is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. City Talk appears every Tuesday and Sunday. Bill Dawers can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org. Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, GA 31401.