Jason Andaya and Raymond Chan, the owners behind sushi restaurant Hando and cocktail bar Kanpai Club, are venturing into Vietnamese cuisine with their latest restaurant in the Heights. Their plan? To give some of the most traditional dishes a refreshing spin.
Located at 1018 North Shepherd Drive sans sign, Dinette will host its soft opening the week of July 25, serving a completely gluten-free menu of small, tapas-style Vietnamese plates and family-style portions created by chef and Hando veteran Cole Hoang, along with some of the more imaginative cocktails Hando and Kanpai Club have been known for.
Tapas-style dishes include thit kho on crispy rice, colorful summer rolls with a sweet and salty peanut butter and jelly sauce, grilled street corn ribs, and Pandan sweet rice fried okra that delivers a delightful crunch.
“Medium plates” include tamarind wings and grilled mussels topped with Happy Cow cheese, while family-style dishes include braised pork belly on sticky rice, brisket with puffed pho noodles, and a pan-seared turmeric and dill cod served with a side of lettuce and vermicelli noodles.
The standout Hanoi egg rolls, stuffed with a combination of crab, pork, shrimp, mushroom, and veggies, start off in a square form that’s traditional in Vietnam before they are cut in half and served with an abundance of pickled veggies, housemade fish sauce, and lettuce for the wrapping. (Like the egg rolls, the BX taco’s scallion, turmeric, and coconut crepe — filled with calamari, shrimp, pork belly, sprouts, and mung bean — is also prime lettuce wrap material, according to Hoang).
A rotation of seasonal boozy drinks in decorative, sometimes animal-shaped glasses will continue at Dinette, with cocktails like the “Jean-Claude Pandan” — an iced-down combination of rum, vodka, absinthe, Pandan, coconut milk, and cinnamon — and the rum-filled “Jungle Flash”, which combines Licor 43, jackfruit, pineapple, and lime.
Staying true to its name “dinette,” defined as a small space for eating and drinking, Andaya, Chan, and Hoang’s brainchild will take on a warm, intimate setting, with an industrial dining area that seats 50 people at a mix of dining room and bar-height communal tables, plus limited seating at a full-service bar.
After opening daily for dinner, Andaya says the restaurant will expand its offerings with lunch service, and, eventually, a bakery — a “fun, little surprise” that’s largely been kept under wraps until now.
The 10-by-10-foot bakery, located directly next door to Dinette, will serve up Vietnamese-style kolaches and puff pastries, and will feature a side door leading to Dinette’s bar — a style reminiscent of Hando and Kanpai Club’s set up, which requires guests to go through Hando’s to access Kanpai’s bar.
Dinette has been more than a year in the making, Andaya says, but it feels like a natural move for him. Both he and Chan grew up in the Houston area eating Vietnamese food. As they got older, though, they “wanted a different dining experience that was a little more special,” he says. “We wanted a restaurant that would grow up with us,” he adds — meaning more creative cocktails and a dining format that welcomed groups to convene in an intimate setting over a variety of plates, both large and small.
Meanwhile, Hoang — who has worked at Hando and under the tutelage of James Beard Award-nominated chef Christine Ha — was looking for his own outlet, Andaya says. Born in Southern Vietnam, with parents who hail from Hanoi in the North, the chef wanted to open a Vietnamese restaurant that showcased his perspective and experience of immigrating to Houston while capturing cuisines from around the region of Vietnam.
At Dinette, he’s playfully offering those modern spins, which are particularly visible in dishes like the Vietnamese pizza. Taking inspiration from the Hawaiian pizza, Dinette’s rendition is made with grilled rice paper, topped with pork belly, pineapple, egg, cheddar, and spicy sate mayo.
Now, after months of planning, the restaurant is just days away from opening, with a soft opening happening as early as July 26.
“We’ve been working so, so hard. The whole team has been dying to let people in here,” says Andaya. “Next week is going to be it.”