It’s official: Vietnamese chef Nikki Tran will bring her unique “Viejun” cuisine to Montrose.
A mixed beverage permit application submitted to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission indicates that Tran’s restaurant Kau Ba Saigon Kitchen will set up shop at 2502 Dunlavy Street, taking over the space vacated earlier this month by Bacchus, a wine bar. Rumors of the restaurant first surfaced on an episode of CultureMap Houston editor Eric Sandler’s podcast. While discussing Houston’s appearance on Ugly Delicious, David Chang’s brand new Netflix series, Chris Shepherd reportedly told Sandler that Tran was looking to bring a restaurant to Houston. The public notice, published last week, makes that rumor official.
A representative for Shepherd tells Eater that he is not involved in that project, but that the James Beard Award winner is a “big supporter” of the chef, who is striking out on her own in Space City with Kau Ba Saigon Kitchen. Shepherd first met Tran in Saigon, when he stumbled into the chef’s restaurant and saw a box of Zatarain’s crab boil on the shelf. “Turns out, she lived in Houston for a while and was trying to recreate the Houston crawfish boil using river prawns,” Shepherd’s publicist Lindsey Brown said. “We’ve been friends ever since.”
A representative for Tran tells Eater that the restaurant will offer a “retro, Saigon pre-1975” vibe, complete with an open kitchen that will give diners a glimpse into the kitchen. Demolition on the Montrose building is expected to begin this week, with final construction on the space pushing throughout the spring.
A website for Kau Ba Saigon Kitchen offers scant details on its menu, but diners can trust the judgment of David Chang, who praised Tran’s restaurant Ca Ba Quan in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on Ugly Delicious. There, Tran has earned raves from critics and diners alike for her unique “Viejun” cuisine, a fusion of inspired by dishes Tran ate and enjoyed in Houston.
Originally expected to arrive in May, construction delays at Kau Ba Saigon Kitchen mean that it will likely arrive in June. Stay tuned for more details.