When chef Mary Nguyen opened Olive & Finch in December of last year, gracing the Uptown neighborhood with an adorable cafe that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and baked goods, she was determined to create a European-style, community-driven cafe and market that was reminiscent of her travels throughout Europe, where cafes, brasseries and bistros dot the streets.
But even before Nguyen developed the concept for Olive & Finch, she was contemplating changes to Parallel Seventeen, her contemporary flagship Vietnamese restaurant that opened nearly nine years ago in Uptown. And it was her journeys to Europe that made her reflect on what she calls the "bastardization" of the bistro, both on a national and local level. To that end, Nguyen, who also owns Street Kitchen Asian Bistro, is closing Parallel Seventeen and reopening it as P17, a restaurant, she says, that's a "true European-inspired neighborhood bistro."
When Parallel Seventeen first opened, recalls Nguyen, "it was more of a bar that served food." There was live music and the "place was more casual and fun," she adds. But now, several years later, Nguyen admits that the "restaurant had gotten too serious, the menu too long," and the concept, she notes, has "lost its direction." And a quick look at the menu, which is inked with dishes like steak au poivre and pan-seared scallops with polenta, is enough to question its Vietnamese footing.
When Nguyen opens P17 on May 15, it will no longer be the abbreviated nickname of Parallel Seventeen. Instead, the restaurant will be formally named P17 and Nguyen and her kitchen crew will serve seventeen bistro-style dishes, alongside a "great, affordable wine list," says Nguyen. And every dish on the board will be under $20.
The space will reflect a lighter color palette, and accessories, like the the parasols dangling from the ceiling, will disappear, as will the Buddhas, bamboo and photos of Vietnam. In their place, says Nguyen, "will be a clean, warm, casual interior with less cutter and more natural colors." In addition, she'll wrap the sills of the two garage doors in hammered copper, line the walls with bronze mirrors and place fresh flowers on every table. "P17 will be like Olive & Finch's full-service, more refined sister," notes Nguyen.
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P17 will serve brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner Sunday through Thursday from 3 to 10 p.m.; and on Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.