If you're ready for a lychee martini with your bowl of steaming pho - and maybe a little live jazz - restaurateurs Spike and Jessie Nguyen think they've got the restaurant for you. Last summer, the Nguyens took over the iconic restaurant space at 3623 Broadway that has had a veritable United Nations of past tenants (Sidney's, Chubby's, Royal Kabob King, New Cafe Tandoor, Clark's Caribbean-American Restaurant). When they open the doors to iPho Tower next month, the interior will evoke, they hope, a sophisticated nightclub in French colonial Indochina: dark, sexy and vibrantly colorful. Concealed lights under the bar and the ceiling beams will rotate nine different colors
"Vietnam was occupied by different Chinese dynasties for a thousand years and by the French for a hundred years," says Spike Nguyen, who opened his first local restaurant, Pho Hoa on Independence Avenue, in 2011. That dining spot is a more conventional venue serving familiar Vietnamese dishes. The new iPho Tower (and, yes, the tower is a nod to the Eiffel Tower, a visual motif that recurs frequently in the new restaurant) will have a more complicated menu.
Spike Nguyen says many of the dishes he serves at Pho Hoa - pho bowls, rice dishes, banh mi sandwiches - will be on the iPho Tower menu, along with French-inspired beef, pork and seafood dishes. The 125-seat restaurant will have a lounge (with its own small-plate menu) at the front of the restaurant and banquette seating for the dining patrons. To make the ambience even more authentic, the Nguyens have ordered their plates shipped from Vietnam. Jessie Nguyen will run the operations of the new restaurant.
Spike Nguyen has installed a completely new kitchen in the restaurant, and he plans to serve late-night customers until, perhaps, 2 a.m.
"We're still working out those details," Spike Nguyen says, "but there's a late-night crowd in this neighborhood who do get hungry."