Little Sister has an advantage. The walls are decorated with graffiti art. Its soundtrack is an energizing hip-hop rhythm, while its steel and wooden beams are transporting. The edge is perfectly, if only slightly, softened by the light blue butterflies engraved on tables.
Chef / owner Tin Vuong’s restaurant (his fifth) was one of the most anticipated openings at the Irvine Spectrum. It opened last month.
“I’m super excited to be in Irvine,” he says. “It’s a great audience. They understand what they are eating. They expect great things. “
Vuong’s menu combines the flavors of Vietnam with European influences.
The little sister and her dramatic looks are shaped by Vuong’s incredible family history of risk, courage and ultimately success.
His grandparents were from Shanghai but raised 10 children (and dental offices) near Saigon during the Vietnam War in the 1970s. They fled the boat fighting, and his grandmother hid diamonds in her mouth to sell once they landed so they had money to start over.
Part of the family ended up in San Francisco. Vuong grew up there. He later earned a business degree from UCLA, but after spending time in the financial district, he gave up attending cookery school. In 2012 he and his business partner founded the Blackhouse Hospitality Group.
The partners opened their first little sister in 2013. According to Vuong, the Spectrum menu will be different from this location. Don’t expect anything “super vanilla,” he says.
Expect Big Things and Nothing “Super Vanilla,” says Chef Vuong.
Vuong, who is now the father of two, says his dishes are essentially Vietnamese home cooking, which he grew up on. The flavors are Southeast Asian, but with influences from the French, Dutch, and British who colonized Vietnam.
Some dishes on the menu: Saigon Lemongrass Beef; Salt and pepper lobster with butter fried shallots; Fried e-fu noodle; Red braised pork belly; and caramelized prawns, pork spare ribs and bacon in a clay pot. And the drinks: these are specially curated by Vuong.
It’s a restaurant not to be missed for many reasons. Its scene, history and, perhaps most importantly, its unique and top notch menu.