An Nguyen has quietly been behind some of the best Vietnamese cuisine in Denver over the last decade or more, but now the chef has her own restaurant. Nguyen grew up watching her mom, Ha Pham, run the kitchen at her family's restaurant, New Saigon, and after earning a college degree in graphic design, took her place at her mother's side and learned every cooking station and every sauce on the eatery's extensive menu.
In 2017, Pham and her husband, Thai Nguyen, were ready to retire and sold New Saigon to a new owner, at a time An wasn't ready to take over the family business. She'd just had a new baby and wanted to dedicate her time to her family, and had also been running New Saigon Bakery & Deli next door with her sister, Thoa, getting up before dawn every day to handle the savory side of the menu.
King's Land Seafood at 2200 West Alameda Avenue retired and put their their restaurant up for sale last fall, Nguyen seized the opportunity and bought the place.
King's Land closed on January 1, but An Nguyen's plans were already in motion, so she was able to quickly take over and open Savory Vietnam Pho & Grill on January 4. Using her graphic design skills, she had already designed the restaurant's sign, saving time and money by sending her illustrations directly to a sign manufacturer. The new sign is already hanging above the front entrance.
Nguyen points out that her pho (like everything else on the menu) is made from scratch, starting with an overnight simmer of beef bones before charred onion and ginger go into the pot with other spices. While Savory Vietnam's menu isn't quite as thick as that of New Saigon, it covers a broad range of noodle and rice bowls, stir-fries, salads, seafood and grilled meats. Escargot fans will find three styles served on sizzling plates, as well as different types of snails used as ingredients in other dishes, including a fresh and vibrant Savory Vietnam salad, loaded with shrimp, squid, jellyfish, pineapple, papaya and bright herbs and vegetables, some of which Nguyen orders directly from Vietnam.
While there's been a little interior decoration, Nguyen plans to do more over the coming weeks to get the place ready for Lunar New Year celebrations (including dragon dancers) at the beginning of February and for weddings and other private events in the coming year.
Savory Vietnam doesn't have a website yet, but is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week. The chef says the restaurant will be closed either on Mondays or Wednesdays, but you can call 303-975-2399 before you visit.