One of the city’s top pho parlors is expanding the bounds of Vietnamese cuisine in NYC with the opening of a restaurant focused on a genre not yet seen here: Vietnamese barbecue.
Come October, the owners of acclaimed Madame Vo in the East Village are opening Madame Vo BBQ nearby at 104 Second Ave. at the corner of East Sixth Street. Owners Yen Vo and chef Jimmy Ly grew up eating Vietnamese barbecue, a part of the cuisine that is traditionally reserved for weddings and special celebrations in Vietnam.
“We wanted to show New York that Vietnamese food is a lot more than what people are used to,” Ly says. “Vietnamese barbecue is a real thing in Vietnam, and a lot of people don’t know about it. We grew up eating it.”
The tradition is most easily comparable to Korean barbecue, with tabletop grills for various cuts of marinated meat and seafood, but with an entirely different flavor profile. Ly says that marinades include curry, lemongrass garlic, and honey fish sauce. After servers cook the meat, diners can then wrap the meats into customizable summer rolls with ingredients such as lettuce, mint, vermicelli, cucumbers, and pickled daikon.
The focus of the menu is on a seven-course beef tasting with dishes such as lime-juice-dressed beef salad (bo tai chanh), beef wrapped in betel leaf (bo la lot), and beef grilled with scallion (bo luoi). Other meats include whole grilled sea bass, stuffed squid, lobster, and scallops. Dipping sauces run from orange butter-garlic to anchovy sauce with pineapple, and accompanying drinks will be beer, wine, sake, fresh juice, and sake-based cocktails.
The 85-seat space will have electric infrared grills on tables, the same kind used at Japanese barbecue restaurant Takashi.
Vietnamese food has been getting its due as of late in NYC. Beyond banh mi and pho shops, stylized restaurants such as Hanoi House and Di An Di have started to grow in numbers. Madame Vo has been a part of that movement, drawing crowds for its Saigon-style pho and sizzling meat and rice dishes since it opened in early 2017.