Jimmy Ly and Yen Vo, the co-owners behind Vietnamese hit Madame Vo in the East Village, have permanently closed their acclaimed barbecue follow-up, Madame Vo BBQ, and flipped the space into Monsieur Vo, focused on the favorite foods of their fathers. The restaurant, located at 104 Second Avenue, between East Sixth and Seventh streets, opens on September 13.
Madame Vo BBQ was an early success when it first opened nearly four years ago. New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells showered praise on the shop’s seven-course beef tasting menu, while diners descended for the shop’s sweet and savory oxtail congee, a breakaway hit dish. But a combination of obstacles hit the restaurant hard: In the early days of the pandemic, the to-go-only rule effectively stopped Madame Vo BBQ from operating. The menu was built around communal dinners, and barbecue simply doesn’t travel well, Vo says. Then, a devastating fire destroyed a church on the block at the end of 2020, forcing nearby businesses to board up in the aftermath. The restaurant ended up staying shuttered for over two years.
Just as the pair were about to throw in the towel with their landlord, the scaffolding covering the restaurant came down, and they took it as a sign to keep the business. “We were like, ‘Okay, we already have a foundation here,’” Ly says. “‘Let’s go back at it again.’”
Enter Monsieur Vo. Just as Madame Vo is an homage to the pair’s mothers and what they like to eat, Monsieur Vo is a nod to their fathers, according to Ly and Vo. In practice, that means a celebration of meats, including a centerpiece beef shank braised in a bun bo hue broth, and a twist on bo tai chanh, a Vietnamese carpaccio. Ly reinterpreted it as a beef tartare laced with a chili sauce that is “a little bit sweet, savory and spicy all at the same time,” he says. It’s topped with a quail egg and shallots and celery to add some crunch. “It is so popular with our dads to sit around and eat and drink,” Vo says. “So, it’s just our version of it.”
They also kept a few old Madame Vo BBQ favorites on the lineup, including a barbecue platter with coriander-spiced short rib and beef wrapped in betel leaf.
Inside, the team gutted the space and ditched the grill tables they used for barbecue. The 58-seat restaurant now boasts bold and dark colors, high arches, and a formidable eight-person table at the back of the restaurant that the pair have coined as “the Godfather table.”
As Ly and Vo turn the lights back on at the long-vacant space, they are adding to NYC’s ever-growing Vietnamese dining scene that includes critically acclaimed spots like Banh Vietnamese Shop House on the Upper West Side and popular Vietnamese pop-ups from new-guard talent like Lauren Tran’s pastry business Banh by Lauren. “It’s amazing to see how people are excited about Vietnamese food,” Vo says. “I think Vietnamese food never really had its moment [in New York] until now.”