ABBOT KINNEY’S FIRST VIETNAMESE POP-UP IS A WINNER
First it was the food trucks that bypassed the tried-and-true, brick-and-mortar restaurants and delighted taste buds all over town by offering creative and crave-worthy curbside delicacies. Now it’s pop-up kitchens that are the buzz—here chefs can set up shop temporarily without having to shell out millions for a hot spot restaurant and instead just focus on building a brand by creating knockout dishes. At Local 1205 in Venice, indo. billed as a dining/lifestyle installation, is a Vietnamese pop-up that is wowing the folks along Abbot Kinney.
From Chef Phuong Tran, formerly of Benley’s in Long Beach, along with marketer/producer Michael Della Femina (Bloody Bill’s) and Tenaya Cardoso of The Dailey Method Venice, and Saigon Trading House, indo. has opened on Abbot Kinney through the fall and is serving wonderful and forward-thinking Vietnamese fare Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 7pm to 2:30am. Popular dishes include the $5 Bao Burger; $9 Matzo Ball Pho; and $9 Vietnamese Chicken Kale Salad.
According to Chef Phuong, “My experiences growing up in Vietnam and returning as an adult have been inspiring on so many levels. As a chef I am enamored with the blending of French techniques and the evolution of these cultures’ cooking styles, which I use and love to share with a hungry audience.”
“Dining/lifestyle installations will pick up where Pop Ups leave off,” partner Della Femina adds. “I am very excited about the opportunity for people to experience indo’s unique taste combinations and dining experience. This is a great concept that Phoung has been developing for years and one that’s about to explode…and his Matzo Ball Pho…wow…I mean Bao!”
During our recent visit for dinner, we took our cues from fellow founder Tenaya Cardoso, a local entrepreneur and devout foodie, who noted she is “very excited to help create a unique dining experience in my neighborhood!”
While the indo. menu changes daily, depending on whatever fresh items, including only organic chicken and grass-fed beef, that chef can find, we worked our way down some favorite items. You can mix and match your own meal or for $35 you can order the Just Feed Me, which is Chef Phuong’s tasting menu.
We started with the Mini Rice Crepe with Toasted Shrimp that proved very light and flavorful. The tiny flakes of shrimp really complimented the beautiful presentation and added a great tasty treat.
Likewise, the Pork & Shrimp Summer Roll was also extremely light, albeit a little bland, but luckily accompanied by a delightful dipping sauce.
The Bao Burger is where Chef really steps things up. This homerun of a dish is quite fiery and filled with so many wonderful flavors. This is a new favorite and pretty much a must have whenever you’re on Abbot Kinney Thursday through Saturday nights while indo. is around.
The Rice Vermicelli with Prawns (sometimes served with your choice of salmon, or tofu sheets and bok choy) is hearty but not overwhelmingly filling. Mix up the bowl’s contents and delve into a dish loaded with distinctive flavors working in perfect harmony.
The Pho Noodles are a signature item here and typical proteins include brisket, chicken and matzo ball, rare steak slices, and oxtail. You’re free to combine as you see fit and we opted for a fine Oxtail / Brisket Pho. A mix of noodles, mouthwatering broth, generous slices of brisket and a nice, meaty oxtail, proved to be comfort food at its best, albeit with a Vietnamese meets trendy Abbot Kinney flare.
Save room for dessert if your taste buds tend to love sweets. This night there was Buttermilk Panna Cotta with honey and blueberries that nearly stole the show. I didn’t think I would be so drawn to this delightful, yet not very decadent dessert, but every bite proved to be from Heaven.
Apparently, the decadence was saved for the Melting Chocolate & Peanut Butter Truffle, which at first proved to be just OK but then I tasted just a touch of the homemade peanut butter truffle and my taste buds did summersaults. Mix everything together and this dish is unreal. In fact, dinner proved to be running on all cylinders—from savory to salty to sweet. Make sure to stop in a few times and work your way down the menu before indo. goes the way of pop-ups and disappears.
indo. is located at Local 1205 at 1205 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice.
By: Jose Martinez
Photography By: Audrey McGee