Flowers of Vietnam will make a comeback in its freshly renovated and expanded Southwest Detroit space on New Year’s Eve. The restaurant is slated to ring in 2018 with a multi-course dinner on December 31 in collaboration with local music venue El Club, according to chef George Azar. The ticketed grand opening event will be followed by a public opening on January 3.
Azar launched his Vietnamese eatery as a weekends-only pop-up inside Vernor Coney Island in January 2016. The spot quickly became a hit, drawing in crowds with its pho and Korean-fried caramel chicken wings. Azar, who counts Zingerman’s co-founder Paul Saginaw among his investors and mentors, soon began planning a more permanent version of the restaurant as well as a spinoff devoted to chicken wings and banh mi inside Ford Field.
Flowers of Vietnam temporarily closed its doors in March with the intention of reopening last summer. However, the normal construction delays pushed back that date significantly.
There were, of course, some benefits to bumping back the reopening. It afforded the chef time to travel. In the spring he staged for the Noma pop-up in Mexico and recently visited Vietnam with his team. The chef is currently in Washington D.C. speaking with congressional representatives about the importance of DACA and the impact of undocumented and immigrant workers on small businesses on behalf of FWD.us.
Now, Azar tells Eater that renovations are wrapping up on the building and he expects to begin getting back into the kitchen and training staff by early December. Designed by Et al. Collaborative, the expanded space will incorporate portions of the old Coney Island layout such as the 8-seat lunch counter with newer elements like an expanded 14-seat bar area lined with drink rails. The dining room, which features a image of a terrace farm mounted on sound-dampening cork, will seat roughly 44 people.
Azar’s core culinary and service team will be led by chef de cuisine Andy Nguyen and longtime Zingerman’s employee and manager — now general manager at Flowers — Dave Rice, as well as beverage director Anna Atanassova (presently Tallulah Wine Bar and Bistro). Atanassova, he says, plans to bring an emphasis on “raw wine” and old world staples to the restaurant alongside classic cocktails.
Azar is collaborating with several companies including Carhartt, which has struck a deal with the chef to develop a line of commercial products for the restaurant industry such as aprons. Flowers also has potential partnership in the works with a major spirits company.
Although the look will be slightly different, customers can count of a familiar menu when Flowers of Vietnam relaunches this winter. “We already had an identity,” Azar says. “Nothing is really going to change. We’re just going to grow bigger.”
Update, 12/5/17, 2:15 p.m.: Updated with links to New Year’s Eve ticketing information.
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