Chef Tin Vuong and his Blackhouse Hospitality Group partner Jed Sanford are in the process of opening three restaurants in around the next six months, which sounds challenging enough.
But to really increase the degree of difficulty, the duo’s 50-seat Downtown outpost of Little Sister will offer three meals a day, two more than their Manhattan Beach flagship Little Sister.
“Imagine 20 Vietnamese coffees already dripped,” Vuong says about breakfast at the Downtown pan-Asian restaurant, slated to open around March. “People can come in and get their coffee and their croissant and a banh mi, maybe even porridge.”
There also might be taro cakes, baos, and fresh sugarcane and mango juice.
“It’s just quick, honest, healthy, legit food,” Vuong says.
Being able to serve breakfast and lunch, Sanford says, “is a little bit of a a fuller expression of what we wanted to do with Little Sister from the beginning. Manhattan Beach just isn’t ripe for breakfast.”
Given the quick pace of downtown, Vuong wants to keep lunch casual too. Think grab-and-go curries, but guests can of course have an easy sit-down meal if they want.
“I want to capture people’s attitude and lifestyle through the day,” Vuong says.
For dinner, the menu will be about “20 percent to 30 percent different” than Manhattan Beach, but expect Little Sister greatest hits like salt-and-pepper lobster and red-braised pork belly along with a wine list that could reach 200 bottles.
Despite the fact that Vuong and Blackhouse are also working to open a Hermosa Beach steakhouse in the next month and a Redondo Beach restaurant by the summer, there is one big factor that makes opening Downtown less daunting.
“This is closer to my house,” says Vuong, who lives in the San Gabriel Valley.
The SGV is ” just where my family is, where my friends live,” he adds. “My grandma’s house is across the street from Chengdu Taste, my uncle’s house is across from Szechuan Impression. It’s where I live, so sometimes I don’t understand the hype.”
Vuong plans to revise and add menu items at his Downtown restaurant that will be more reflective of how food is served in the SGV, and even his still to-be-named steakhouse will weave in Asian influences. He’s imagining a potato gratin dauphinois with beef tendons, “so it has that really sticky flavor.” He wants wasabi along with horseradish on seafood towers that could include uni.
Overall, he wants to play around with steakhouse classics, serving French onion soup with an oxtail rillette while immersing meats with beef tallow, pork fat, or duck fat before they’re grilled.
It’s going to be hard to imagine his daily commute, “but it’s just fun,” insists Vuong, who says that working with a team that includes chef friends he’s “grown up with” is fantastic.
“We can do what we want to do, really without any boundaries. You don’t get these chances all the time in life, so if you can, grab it and take it.”