So we're sitting inside Long, your new Vietnamese restaurant, eating six-dollar bone marrow on crushed-glass ceramic plates. Behind your head is a jellyfish tank. How can you afford to charge so little for so much?
I'm actually just very thrifty. All the furniture and scenery here were made by my international friends for cheap. The chairs were made in Laos, for example. I installed the glass fireplace to warm up the space and the jellyfish tank to relax folks.
How is Long's menu different from the Tamarind Tree, your other restaurant?
We've kept about 70 percent of the dishes from Tamarind. The grilled squid dish, the bone marrow dish... these are all new dishes. In total, we have about nine new appetizers and a bunch of additions to the salad and soup sections.
Your menu is like an encyclopedia of different Vietnamese foods. How did you become so well-versed in the cuisine of your country?
My brothers and sisters married people from all over Vietnam. And when we'd throw family dinners, there were a wide variety of dishes on display. I started to get acquainted with the cuisines from areas all around Saigon.
So what's next?
I'm opening a Southeast Asian indoor marketplace in the International District on 10th and Jackson. We'll be selling food and clothing from Thailand, Laos, Korea, and Japan for cheap. I'm going to paint the ceiling dark blue, install twinkling lights, and call it "Saigon at Night."This article has been updated since its original publication.