It was almost two years to the day that we first set foot in Flowers of Vietnam. Back then, it was a Sunday-only eatery, more akin to a clandestine popup, set inside the Vernor Coney Island.
The vibe back then was part old-school diner, part after-hours vibe, part inspired Vietnamese eatery, where chef-owner George Azar could showcase the culinary skills he picked up while working at several critically-lauded restaurants across the country.
His vision though was always to transform the diner into a proper full-time eatery in the Southwest Detroit neighborhood he grew up in, miles away from the hype of Midtown and Corktown. In March, with the help of investor and mentor Paul Saginaw (co-founder of Zingerman’s), Azar & crew closed the restaurant’s doors for a major remodel designed by Et al. Collaborative (the firm behind Selden Standard, Astro Coffee and Standby).
This week, after months of renovations and anticipation, FoV began welcoming guests once again.
We stopped by a soft opening on Thursday, where not an empty seat was in sight and the place thumped with early 00’s hip hop (we squeezed in a solo stool at the bar). The newly-expanded space still has the bones of the original Coney, with its 8-seat counter and the classic neon signage. Much of the softly-lit main dining room maintains its booth seating as well. Added is a large bar area enclosed in exposed concrete walls and a more spacious back-of-house area.
Many elements of the menu — with its popular papaya salad, finger-lickin’ Korean caramel fried chicken wings and seasonal red snapper — also remain similar, as is the crew (longtime employee Andy Nguyen heads the kitchen). Newcomers include beverage director Anna Atanassova, previously of Tallulah Wine Bar in Birmingham.
FoV should “officially” be open Friday.
A lot has happened since our first visit in 2016. Azar spent several weeks in the Yucatan peninsula resort town of Tulum last spring, cooking alongside acclaimed chef René Redzepi during an extravagant popup for Noma Mexico. FoV meanwhile, picked up accolades from GQ as one of the best new restaurants in America in 2017 restaurant — even though it had not been open full-time. And in September, Zagat recognized Azar as one of its “30 under 30” list of “culinary industry superstars” across the United States.
Flowers of Vietnam is at 4430 West Vernor Highway. For more information, click here.