DI AN DI. A SPACE BUILT BY A COMMUNITY FOR COMMUNITY.

A DESIGN-FOCUSED RESTAURANT CONCEPTUALIZED AND BIRTHED WITHIN THE WALLS OF A/D/O.


When co-founder Kim Hoang describes the lush and crisp Di An Di as “Mom and Pop,” she reclaims the term as sexy and modern. It is shorthand to describe the collaborative labor of love that produced and runs this elegant new Vietnamese American restaurant. From the fragrant plates to the skilled millwork, it is clear that Di An Di is a realized fusion of a fresh culinary concept with a critical design focus.

In the months leading up to the opening, Kim and co-founder Tuan Bui - owner of lower east side staple An Choi - would meet with his brother, designer and artist, Huy Bui, at A/D/O to discuss potential designs. Huy, the designer behind An Choi and Di An Di, is a member of the first class of design residents at The A/D/O Workspace. Tuan describes treating A/D/O like an “extended living room, cafe, and office space” where they could both foster ideas and execute them. It was a comfortable and inspiring atmosphere for them to plan in and build a passionate team of talented contributors to help them physically manifest the ambitions they had for the restaurant.

"TUAN DESCRIBES TREATING A/D/O LIKE AN “EXTENDED LIVING ROOM, CAFE, AND OFFICE SPACE” WHERE THEY COULD BOTH FOSTER IDEAS AND EXECUTE THEM."

It was at the A/D/O Holiday party that Huy introduced Kim and Tuan to friend and collaborator Michael Yarinsky, an art curator and design consultant. “We were knee deep and knew we needed his expertise,” said Huy. Shortly after, Kim and Tuan brought Yarinsky onto the team as an interior design consultant. “From that point forward it was hyper-collaborative,” Michael emphasized. “Tuan and Kim have great vision and it was up to myself and Michael to facilitate it,” Huy adds. Kim wanted tropical, clean, and design forward, and both Huy and Michael knew designers who could help execute that. Ladies and Gentlemen Studio did the sconce lighting, Calico and Flavor Paper created bright wallpapers, and Madera Surfaces turned flooring into table tops.


Several key components of the restaurant were fabricated in The A/D/O Workspace. Huy started by producing a complete drawing set, renderings, and making a 1/4 laser cut model of the restaurant. He eventually manufactured the actual 15-foot banquettes using The Workshop’s CNC Router and table saw. With the help of Michael and Kim, Huy upholstered the backs and cladded the wood onsite at Di An Di. The result is a flawless curving interior that is the most ambitious and innovative millwork to have been done in The A/D/O Workspace.


This is the second restaurant Huy and Tuan have worked on together, but the ambitions of this venture pushed both the cuisine and design to another level. Kim referred to the first restaurant, An Choi as “Vietnamese 101” designed by Huy to invoke dining in an alleyway in Saigon. Di An Di is the more nuanced, next iteration of Vietnamese American cuisine and ambiance.

Driven partially by nostalgia for their Vietnamese-American roots in Virginia and Texas, and partially by their own curiosity to learn the Vietnamese cuisine their grandmothers hadn’t cooked, Kim, Tuan, and co-founder/chef Dennis Ngo created a uniquely Vietnamese-American, New York experience. The herb-filled food and lush green interior evoke the Vietnamese countryside of Dalat, while the consciously curated details and industrial frame ground the experience in New York.   


The passion is evident when sitting on the banquettes while the energized staff explains the dishes. It is a space built by a community to hold a community. Whether it is being exposed to Bún bò chay for the first time, slicing through Bánh tráng nướng, a Vietnamese Pizza with golden scissors, or the custom tables and personalized neon, the space is uniquely the first of its kind, exciting, and intimate.  

“We have this lightning in a bottle, the interiors, the food, the drink everything is on. And you don’t really get that in a usual restaurant model. I think the key to that is it is a family running it, and a family that is into design. You don’t get a lot of that in the restaurant community. Everybody wants it to be so good at every level. It is a special thing.” Yarinsky reflected on the project. The restaurant has only been open a short time and has already caught the attention of culinary and design critics.

"...IT IS A FAMILY RUNNING IT AND A FAMILY THAT IS INTO DESIGN."


The success of this project exemplifies the mission of interdisciplinary and open exchange of which A/D/O was founded on. Huy credits the open and warm atmosphere with bringing him and Michael together as well as the open-to-all space to collaborate, build, and pioneer new ideas in - one that Michael described as facilitating rather than dictating action. Di An Di is just one project that uses A/D/O as a platform and Huy suspects that their story will be one of many collaborations that come out of A/D/O over the years.

By Lily Saporta Tagiuri


Huy Bui is an A/D/O Workspace Member.