New York Has a New Spot for Ambitious Vietnamese Cooking

The spread. Photo: Liz Clayman/Liz Clayman

In New York, you can eat from Sri Lanka to Sierra Leone with just a MetroCard and a sturdy stomach. Compared to places like Orange County, Houston, and Philadelphia, though, the city lacks for quality Vietnamese food. There’s Bunker in East Williamsburg, Little Saigon Pearl in Gravesend, and a scattering of solid bnh mì shops, but the good stuff is few and far between. Which is reason enough to be excited about Hanoi House, a promising-looking spot that debuted on St. Mark’s Place this week.

The restaurant comes from two alums of Stephen Starr’s restaurant empire: Ben Lowell and Sara Leveen, who worked for Starr for over a decade as both a general manager of the blockbuster Buddakan to opening chef-driven spots like Upland. To helm the kitchen they’ve tapped John Nguyen, who hails from Orange County, home to the largest and longest established Vietnamese enclave in the United States. Nguyen’s training is mostly Italian — he worked at Starr’s Caffè Storico and Lincoln in New York, as well as ink. and Curtis Stone’s Maude in Los Angeles — and his cooking isn’t by-the-books traditional. So the pickles and pâté of bánh mì find their way into an uni toast, and water spinach is served with capers and fish sauce mixed with brown butter.

There’s also been a conscious effort, Leveen says, to go beyond the “cookie cutter menus” that dominate New York’s Vietnamese restaurants. While there’s pho in the Hanoi style, there’s also rice porridge with roasted manilla clams, a pomelo and shrimp salad with roasted cashews, and the root vegetable curry known as cà ri chay. There’s beer and wine to drink plus Vietnamese coffee, with desserts set to roll out in the next week or two.

Bun cha, which can be served family-style, with grilled pork, betel-leaf-wrapped meatballs, pickled green papaya, crab spring rolls, rice vermicelli, chili, and garlic. Photo: Liz Clayman/Liz Clayman
Hanoi-style beef pho with rare filet mignon, brisket, and rice noodles. Photo: Liz Clayman/Liz Clayman
Goi buoi, a shrimp and pomelo salad, with ruby red grapefruit, cherry tomatoes, toasted cashews, mint, and garlic-chili dressing. Photo: Liz Clayman/Liz Clayman
Chao hao, or Vietnamese congee, with roasted manila clams, peanuts, scallions, and crispy garlic. Photo: Liz Clayman/Liz Clayman
Iced Vietnamese coffee served affogato style with coconut ice cream. Photo: Liz Clayman/Liz Clayman
Not a bad place to linger. Photo: Liz Clayman/Liz Clayman

Menu [PDF]

Hanoi House, 119 St. Marks Pl., nr. Ave A.; 212-995-5010

New York Has a New Spot for Ambitious Vietnamese Cooking