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Acclaimed chef reveals big plans for his 2 hot Vietnamese restaurants, plus our trip to Mi Cocina
On this week’s episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” chef Tony Nguyen joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss his career. He is the chef and owner of both Saigon House, a Viet-Cajun restaurant in north Houston, and Xin Chao, a modern Vietnamese restaurant near downtown.
As the chef explains, his interest in restaurants goes back to childhood when he ate at local staples such as Kim Son. After attending hospitality school at Syracuse University and working in New York City, Nguyen made his way back home where he co-founded the Wokker food truck, which earned attention for its fusion of Vietnamese and Texas cuisine.
The chef shares the story of learning Viet-Cajun cuisine and achieving success at Saigon House, which ultimately led to his meeting Masterchef winner Christine Ha and her husband John Suh. The trio opened Xin Chao in 2020, earning a CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Best New Restaurant in 2021 and finalist status for Best Chef: Texas in the 2022 James Beard Awards.
Now, Nguyen is looking to the future following Ha’s recent announcement that she’s parting way with Xin Chao to focus on her other two restaurants, The Blind Goat and Stuffed Belly.
“I’m going back to my roots of Viet-Cajun. I really love seafood,” Nguyen says. “We’re going to introduce a lot more seafood. Live lobster, the king crab is coming back. It’s excited to get back into the kitchen. What kind of food do I want to showcase now that I have a platform?”
Listen to the full episode to hear Nguyen discuss Sin City, a speakeasy-style bar he plans to open in Xin Chao’s private dining room. He also predicts when Saigon House will start serving crawfish.
In this week’s other episode, Sandler and co-host Monica Danna discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: Esquire’s best new restaurants list; chef Michael O’Connor joining the team at Andiron; and the opening of 1891 American Eatery & Bar in the Heights.
In the restaurant of the week segment, the two friends discuss their recent visits to Mi Cocina. Tune in to their thoughts on the Dallas Tex-Mex staple’s return to the Houston market.