We're always looking for great spots that are infused with culture, comfort food and always feeling like a sense of home when dining. We popped by Hanoi Soup Shop's East Village location to talk with one of the restaurateurs of this Vietnamese eatery, Sara Leveen. We find out more about this location, how it differs from Hanoi House and what signature dishes we should be enjoying when there.
ATHLEISURE MAG: Tell us about your background and how you came to open Hanoi House and Hanoi Soup Shop.
SARA LEVEEN: Ben Lowell & I have worked in restaurants our whole lives; prior to starting our own company we both worked for Stephen Starr. The dream of opening our own place really came alive when we traveled Southeast Asia together. There is an endless amount of inspiration from the streets of energetic cities like Hanoi and Bangkok and also chill & charming cities like Luang Prabang and Chiang Mai. Capturing what we loved and translating it to an NYC restaurant became our goal.
AM: Tell us about the backgrounds of the chefs, Daniel Le and Albert Nguyen in terms of where they have previously worked within kitchens and their journey to Hanoi Soup Shop.
SL: Daniel has roots in both Southern California and Houston; he grew up among other Vietnamese family members and friends. He learned kitchen organization & management in big companies like Ritz Carlton and Roy’s and came to us relatively new to NYC looking to apply what he’d learned to a Vietnamese restaurant. His palate is bold but traditional…his many culinary strengths include his ability to create deep, flavorful broths and braise various cuts of meat to achieve intense levels of umami. This is on display at Hanoi Soup Shop with our daily specials which rotate every few days.
Albert was born & raised in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. He is a New Yorker through and through, having gained his experience at Ma Peche, Del Posto and Flora Bar. As the Executive Chef at Hanoi House, Albert taps into his parents’ way of cooking and seasoning (both from Northern Vietnam) with simple, rustic food accented by fermented seafood sauces and by pickling and curing ingredients in house. His contributions to the menu are focused on vegetable side dishes and seasonal salads that highlight individual ingredients and help create a family style feast great for sharing.
AM: When did Hanoi Soup Shop open and how does it differ from Hanoi House?
SL: Hanoi Soup Shop opened at the end of April this year and is meant to provide a quicker, more casual and slightly less expensive menu with all the same quality, flavors and ingredients as Hanoi House. Its main focus is soups, and its main purpose is takeout & delivery however we have 10 dining seats and a fun little lunch crowd. Eventually, we will offer dinner service for those diners looking for a quick bite of a summer roll and pho for instance. Hanoi Soup Shop is about finding ways to cook something for 12 hours but serve it in 5 minutes.
AM: Does the menu change based on seasonal offerings?
SL: Yes! Hanoi House’s menu is more ingredient and seasonally focused…Hanoi Soup Shop looks to traditional recipes like Bun Rieu and Bun Bo Hue…letting the weather and chef’s cravings dictate which
direction we go on a given day.
AM: What are staples that regardless of the day will always be available at Hanoi Soup Shop?
SL: We will always have Beef and Chicken Pho, Summer Rolls, Classic Banh Mi & Papaya Salads. The proteins in the Summer Rolls and Papaya Salad may change over time but not in the near future.
AM: What are 3 signature dishes that should be enjoyed at Hanoi Soup Shop?
SL: Beef Pho with Brisket & Oxtail.
Classic Banh Mi: Housemade pork terrine, Vietnamese ham, pork crumbles, chicken liver pate, pickled vegetables, cilantro & jalapeno on a baguette.
Papaya Salad with Beef Jerky.
AM: What are 3 beverages that you suggest that should also be enjoyed?
SL: Iced Vietnamese Coffee
Hot Egg Coffee
PHOTOS COURTESY | HANOI SOUP SHOP