Vietnamese food in the middle of Mexicantown? Yep! You heard right! It might seem like an odd fit, but Chef George Azar makes it seem like a perfect pair.
Every Sunday night, starting at 7:00 p.m., Azar and his team transform Vernor Coney Island into Flowers of Vietnam, a Vietnamese restaurant that has guests lined up as soon as the doors open.
If you’ve never had Vietnamese food, then you’re in for a treat! For people who are unfamiliar with the cuisine, Azar says to think of it as Mexican goes East. You’ll find spices and herbs perfectly balanced with sweetness and plenty of texture.
The Making of Flowers of Vietnam
So how did a guy from Southwest Detroit come to open a Vietnamese restaurant?
Azar attend culinary school at Schoolcraft College and from there he started traveling and working in different upscale restaurants. He worked at world-renowned chef, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Las Vegas, as the food and beverage manager at the Waldorf Astoria in New Orleans, as a personal chef to NBA players and musicians and even Grant Achatz’ 3-Michelin Star restaurant, Alinea, in Chicago.
He moved back to Michigan with a lot of experience, talent and ideas!
When Azar returned, he saw that Detroit’s culinary scene was growing, but he noticed that one thing was missing – diversity.
Detroit has a lot of restaurants right now, but they’re often similar. Azar missed having countless options like he did in places like Las Vegas and Chicago, and what he missed the most was Vietnamese. So that’s where he started.
The concept was there, but landing on a name took a little while.
“I struggled with a name because everything I tossed out made me feel uncomfortable. I landed on, Flavors of Vietnam but when the menu was sent to the graphic designer, it came back as Flowers of Vietnam. The designer had no idea he had sent the menu back with a changed title. He read it as Flowers of Vietnam, but the original vision had a very feminine feel giving respect to the flowers of the region, so it worked,” said Azar.
The name stuck and Flowers of Vietnam was born.
The Golden Feeling
What should you expect when you walk into Flowers of Vietnam? Something authentic, non-pretentious and most importantly, fun.
Azar calls this “the golden feeling.” When you go to a restaurant, you feel welcomed and comfortable and you have great food provided by great people – and that’s exactly what you’ll get at Flowers of Vietnam.
As far as the food goes, you should know this isn’t a fusion restaurant. Flowers of Vietnam’s menu is authentically Vietnamese.
The Caramel Chicken Wings are a crowd favorite! They’re Korean fried chicken wings covered in a delicious, savory caramel and served with a tangy sambel oelek mayo for dipping.
Ca Chien Sot Ca is a whole fried fish, topped with a tomato sauce, Chinese leeks and cilantro. Being presented with a whole fish might feel intimidating, but trust me, you can handle this and will not be disappointed.
Bo Tai Chanh is a cold dish, perfect for a starter. It’s fragrantly spiced beef, seared rare and sliced thin with rau raum (Vietnamese coriander), nuoc mam (a Vietnamese dipping sauce), pomello (tastes like a sweet, less acidic grapefruit), blood oranges and cilantro.
Ca Phe Trung is a coffee drink, indigenous to Hanoi, topped with Viet egg cream, Nordic sea salt and wafer cookie. Keeping with Vietnamese tradition, the coffee cups are placed in bowls filled with hot water. In Vietnam, you drink your coffee slowly, the hot water in the bowls keeps the coffee warm.
These are just a few of the offerings on the Flowers of Vietnam menu, but no matter what you chose, you won’t be disappointed! While the restaurant is only open on Sunday nights for the time being, in the next month or two, they will be transitioning into the space completely, but nothing will really change except the menu. The mornings will be filled with inspired “Coney food”, lunch will have substantial Viet/Coney options, and dinner will be completely Vietnamese.
If you’re looking for a culinary experience that’s unique, exotic and brought to you with a lot of heart by a team who makes every dish authentic, Flowers of Vietnam might just be your new favorite dining spot.