Tet is the most ambitious effort yet from Saigon-born Steven Duong, who won neighborhood hearts when he opened Nam in Tribeca soon after 9/11; O Mai on Ninth Avenue followed soon after. Here, deep-purple and burgundy alcoves, an illuminated sake wall, and whimsical crocheted lamp shades create an oasis from Avenue A’s pell-mell crowds and scatterings of residual squalor. But the lure will be Duong’s ambitious roll call of his homeland’s northern heat and southern sweet—fiercely spicy lemongrass-coated tofu, wok-sautéed greens with crispy sun-dried anchovies, salmon simmered in chile-pineapple sauce, and seared red snapper on a tamarind puddle. Duong’s nostalgia for this regional mix reflects growing up in Saigon with parents migrated from the North. Our five have joined the last friends-and-family tasting before Tet’s scheduled opening, and an amiable Pan-Asian staff is just getting the drill, slightly off pace. Soft salad rolls full of sweet meat patties with a peanut dipping sauce are new to me. Our fussy crew is intrigued by coconut–purple-yam soup, then instantly won over by a tapestry of spicing in juicy roasted quail and the fatty lushness of grilled lemongrass baby-back ribs with honey-plum gaze. Crispy egg noodles topped with a tangle of vegetables—sautéed Asian greens, shiitakes, lotus root, onion, and tofu—disappears quickly. Soft palm seeds and slivered jackfruit in banana tapioca cream reminds our Saigon-born friend of childhood. Dinner only, from 5:30 on, for now.
83 Ave. A, nr. 5th St.; 212-253-0800