Silent H Not Deaf to New York’s Pleas for Vietnamese

Down in front!Photo: RJ Mickelson/Veras for New York Magazine
“I don’t miss anything about California except Mexican food and Vietnamese food,” says Vinh Nguyen, a onetime UCLA premed who fell into the hospitality business as a bar back at Santa Monica’s legendary Father’s Office. Since moving east three years ago, Nguyen has found New York’s Vietnamese options sorely lacking, especially when compared to the home cooking of his mother, an immigrant who left school at 9 to sell street food in Hue. The problem, as he sees it, is laundry-list menus that are too hit-or-miss, combined with “atmospheres” defined by single-white-napkin dispensers and dirty bathrooms.

At Silent H, the restaurant he’s opening in his Williamsburg neighborhood on February 17, Nguyen has whittled his menu down to a focused selection of tapas (braised pork spareribs with cabbage and radicchio, lemongrass shrimp cakes), a couple salads, and a half-dozen entrées, like the classic Vietnamese crêpe, broken rice with grilled pork chops, and vegan-friendly fried rice. There will be an assortment of bánh mì at lunch (including the kielbasa-stuffed “Greenpoint”), Vietnamese coffee and exotic fruit shakes, and eventually, lord of liquor licenses willing, beer and wine. And how did Nguyen come by Silent H, a name as distinctive as Oznot’s Dish, the last restaurant to occupy that northside location? “There’s a silent H in so many Vietnamese words, including my name.” — Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld

Silent H, 79 Berry St., at N. 9th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-218-7063. Opens February 17.