The team behind Noi and Shibui are bringing a Vietnamese bar and eatery to Rundle Street, at the former Chopstix site on Rundle Street.
At the advent of the COVID shutdown, on 23 March this year, almost all of the family Nguyen’s shops shut indefinitely.
A group decision was made to keep Noi open so that the members of their staff who weren’t eligible for government support could continue to work, but the rest laid dormant until a viable path to trade could be seen.
Coming up to six months from the shutdown, all of the family’s restaurants have reopened bar one – Chopstix on Rundle Street.
The elders of the Nguyen family, Tam Tran and Thich Nguyen, had purchased the restaurant 16 years ago, when it was Rundle Noodle Bar, before converting it to Chopstix not long after.
Thy, who founded Shibui and Noi with her husband Quang over the last two years, had been asked by her mother, Tam, a couple of times recently if she wanted to take over the restaurant.
It had never been a feasible idea, with Shibui and Noi taking a lot of her attention, but with the COVID shutdown in effect, an opportunity presented itself.
The family had planned to give Chopstix on Rundle a quick spruce up – rejigging the kitchen, painting the shop and installing new flooring – so, Thy and her family thought, they might as well go a little bit further and install a new concept.
“It was always going to be Chopstix, up ‘til around about a month ago,” says Nhi Nguyen.
“We were like, ‘Alright, it’s been closed six months. We really need to open something.’”
Noi has proved to be incredibly popular, even maintaining a steady trade during COVID, despite not being designed for the takeaway model that was forced upon them.
Because of this, the decision was made to bring an adapted version of Noi to the city, in a more casual, bar-oriented way.
The new bar and eatery will be called Ong Vietnamese Kitchen.
“It’s kind of become an extension of Noi, but definitely not Noi,” chef Quang explains.
“Noi’s more sharing, whereas here we’re thinking a bit more casual, bar snacks, more snacky food, where you can just sit, enjoy, drink.
“The food that we’ll offer here, and the atmosphere and the vibe that we want, I think it slots in quite nicely with NOLA, Golden Boy, that vibe.
“A bit more of what people would expect with Vietnamese, or accustomed to, but still our take on it.”
Ong won’t mess with the classics, and will instead iterate on well-known Vietnamese dishes by doubling down on their idiosyncrasies.
“Quang’s bringing his chef’s take on the pho. So we’re playing around with doing pho-braised short ribs,” Thy says.
“They’d generally braise that in the stock to create the stock. We want to have it and braise it in a pho broth, to add more flavour into it,” Quang explains.
“It’s just a bit more attention to detail on how can we add more layers of flavour into it, without making it completely different.”
There will also be bun bowls, and banh xeo (a savoury turmeric and coconut pancake), and Quang’s take on a tea sandwich.
“We really want to do a crispy chicken skin bao sandwich,” he says.
“There’ll be a few playful things, the bar snacks.”
The menu will be playful and adaptable to the many ways East End patrons like to dine out – be it a few snacks before a night out, or a longer dinner accompanied by cocktails, wine and beer.
“Say someone who wants to have a really good bowl of pho, they can come in and have a bowl of pho, have a drink, done. Or a group of friends who want to go out and catch up and snack on stuff, and then eat bigger, pho or a bun bowl, whatever, they have the option to do that as well,” Thy explains
“I think what people have come to know us for is we just really like food, and we like eating good food, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
The team is yet to decide what hours the bar and eatery will do when it opens sometime around the end of October.
Phong, Thy’s brother, also runs Lemongrass next door, and while he says the lunch crowd hasn’t come back to Rundle Street yet, there are healthy nighttime and weekend crowds beginning to emerge.
“The weekends are good. There’s an activation with the Adelaide city council and the Maras Group, which helps,” he says.
“Before COVID, there was a really good vibe in the East End, there were new venues that were going to open, everyone gels with each other, it improves the whole precinct.
“The weekends have a really good vibe, just with Vardon. It’s a really nice hub in the East End. It’s just missing that thing that we can bring into it.”
Ong Vietnamese Kitchen is slated to open around the end of October. Keep an eye on the venue’s progress by following via Instagram.