One of the best things to come out of the hospitality industry during the pandemic is all the creative pop-ups and chef collaborations. An exciting new one is on the horizon: Cà Phê Phương, an outdoor Vietnamese cafe from Thip Khao/Padaek chef and co-owner Boby Pradachith, Sushi Taro alum Amy Phan, and artist and designer An-Phuong Ly. The trio want to introduce diners to Vietnam’s vibrant cafe culture and lesser-seen regional dishes. The pop-up launches Sunday, October 18 at gardening non-profit City Blossoms in Brightwood Park, with three reservable seatings between 2 and 6 PM.
The idea for the pop-up came about as a conversation between friends, discussing their love of “real” Vietnamese coffee and a desire to connect with their heritage. Pradachith has long been an advocate for the #LaoFoodMovement, cooking with his mother, chef Seng Luangrath, at the family’s trio of Lao restaurants. But the rising star chef recently took a genetics test, which revealed a strong Vietnamese lineage. Whereas Phan, who worked at Sushi Taro and Donburi for three years, has largely specialized in Japanese food, including a “home-makase” sushi catering business she started with a fellow Taro alum since the pandemic.
“The three of us wanted to do something fun and bring something a little exciting and different during Covid that connects with our heritage and culture,” says Pradachith.
Interactive coffee service takes center stage at Cà Phê Phương, inspired by a common name An-Phuong Ly and her sisters all share. The team is working with Nguyen Coffee Supply in Brooklyn, a Vietnamese-American-owned business that imports green coffee beans from Central Vietnam and roasts them on premise. At the cafe, 100-percent robusta coffee will be brewed in Vietnamese metal phin filters (seen above)—often described as a cross between a pour-over and a French press—which allow the coffee to bloom and slowly produces a potent brew. Guests can enjoy it hot or pour it over ice, “kind of like an espresso and condensed milk,” says Pradachith.
An a la carte menu of sweet and savory plates will be served alongside the coffee. Pradachith is making bánh tráng nướng, a pizza-shaped rice paper that’s grilled for a cracker-like consistency, and is topped with ground pork, tamarind mayonnaise, chili crunch, lime zest, and fresh herbs. Another dish is cơm hến, a clam and rice bowl where the grains are cooked in gingery clam broth, and scattered with steamed clams, fragrant herbs, chili crunch, crushed peanuts, starfruit, and banana blossoms. For dessert, Phan is planning several cakes, including a pandan roll with young coconut or a cinnamon sponge with spiced vanilla cream. Diners can also try chè, a layered, multi-textured dessert drink, made here with coffee jelly, coconut milk, shaved ice, whipped coffee, and salted egg cream.
Reservations are currently available via Thip Khao’s Tock (tables have a one hour time limit and can seat up to four). Guests will be seated in the garden at City Blossoms, a non-profit that fosters kid-driven green spaces in schools and communities. Tickets are $5 and include coffee; additional drinks and food can be purchased a la carte, alongside tie-dye t-shirts made by Ly using coffee grounds. The pop-up is currently scheduled for this week, with more dates pending.*
Cà Phê Phương. 516 Kennedy St., NW. Open Sundays, 2 to 6 PM.
Chè Cà Phê – coffee jelly, coconut milk, shaved ice, whipped coffee, salted egg cream