The crew of stylish Vietnamese restaurants, an on-the-rise genre in New York City, gets a new member this week with the opening of Di An Di in Greenpoint, a very pretty noodle shop from the owners of longtime LES restaurant An Choi.
Opening Friday, May 18, owners Kim Hoang and Tuan Bui and chef-owner Dennis Ngo firmly call their food Vietnamese American. The menu’s main focus is on noodle soup, with five different kinds of pho from all over Vietnam and three other kinds of noodle soup, including fish and vegetarian varieties. Bui says the team saw the wildfire spread of ramen and thinks pho deserves the same kind of love.
“You look at the phenomenon with ramen where it’s becoming so well known in NYC as the go-to for noodle soups, and you look at pho, and it’s a much cleaner, more delicate style,” he says. “There’s a lot of variance in style [of Vietnamese noodle soups], and we wanted to expand on that.”
Indeed, ramen is more widespread than pho, though restaurants such as Hanoi House and Madame Vo have made it a more high-profile soup in the last year. Bui sees Ngo’s soups as complementing but standing apart from NYC’s current offerings.
“I think Madame Vo is pulling inspiration from their grandmother recipes, while Hanoi House takes a more high-end approach using foie gras and uni,” Bui says. “We want to come from a Vietnamese American perspective, the first generation perspective. We want to pull from Vietnam and where we grew up in Houston, Texas and basically take our favorite dishes and do it in our own way.”
An immediately apparent example of this is the rice paper “pizza” on the menu. Ngo grills rice paper and tops it with egg, ground pork, shrimp floss, and pickled chilis. Another is the very current, plant- and light-filled decor. The 65 seats, with eight at the bar, are set around skylights, whitewashed and blue ombre walls, and an overgrowth of greenery. Bui compares it to being in a tropical countryside in Vietnam.
With Di An Di, it’s clear the trio is trying to make a statement about what they think Vietnamese American food means: honoring tradition while playing with ingredients and pulling in different influences, all in a photo-ready space.
“I feel like Chinese Americans are kind of having their moment with Mission Chinese and Nom Wah Parlor and Win Son,” Bui says. “I feel like Vietnamese Americans and food are basically about to take that idea, and Di An Di is an example of that.”
Di An Di will be open Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., with the bar open until 1 a.m. On Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, hours are 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., with the bar until midnight. Brunch will set in this summer.