An Choi’s Vietnamese Feast

February, 2012

Chao, ‘Nauts,

If you’ve ever been to Vietnam, you’ve heard this phrase a hundred times: “Same same, but different.” Ask for directions to a restaurant or tourist agency you’ve been recommended or read about in the Lonely Planet and they’ll try and steer you elsewhere. “Come, come. Same same, but different!” It means, give or take: try my friend’s place instead; it’s like that place you were thinking of going, but just a bit better … or, um, different. Invariably it’s not. It’s just the same, same.

Well this place ain’t. There’s a rumor around that you can’t get good Vietnamese food in New York, and to be honest, we’ve been partly responsible for spreading it. There are a couple good pho joints here and there, some fine bahn mi, and a couple high-end pretenders. But even out in the wilds of Bay Ridge it’s tough to find something really authentic — with that mix of freshness and depth of flavor that defines Vietnamese street food (which is really, unquestionably, where the best food in Vietnam is at). Which is why we were so surprised to find this joint in the Lower East Side — where, as we all know, it’s usually less about what you’re serving than what you’re wearing.

Well, owner Tuan Bui is no slouch in the fashion department, but his little street food joint on Orchard has all the kick and flavor of an open air pho house in Nha Trang or the dumpling vendors in HCMC. And he’s closing his place down to have chef Dennis Ngo make us an amazing seven-course, off-the-menu feast just for us. The only downside? We can’t fit everyone. The plus side? There’ll be sure to be enough beer to go ’round. So, RSVP snap snap. We promise it’ll be a lot more different than same same.


85 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002