Growing up in Amarillo, Texas, Virakon Vongphachanh saw a lot of the fusion cuisine he calls “the new Asian-American.”
“In Texas, lots of gas stations sell boxes of California rolls, but people in Japan don’t eat that stuff,” he says.
For more authentic dining, the 36-year-old chef points to Travel Channel hosts Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern.
“When they go to someplace in Asia, you see them eating all this great street food — quick, casual things like noodles off the grill,” he says.
It’s exactly the type of food Vongphachanh plans to showcase at the yet-unnamed Asian fusion restaurant he’s opening next month in downtown Chandler.
“We’ll have barbecue and pork belly from Korea, noodles and stir fry from China, soups from Vietnam, oysters and mussels,” he says. “Every day I’m going to shop for fresh produce for chef’s specials.
“I do stuff with flair. I do one plate at a time. There’s an artistic appeal to food.”
The food — meals will be $10 to $15 — will be complemented by a bar menu of what he calls “cold cocktails,” such as martinis, mojitos and Mai Tais.
Vongphachanh is combining two empty Boston Street spaces — the recently closed Vivi’s Boutique (pictured above on right) and the short-lived KiZake Sushi & Martinis (above on left) — into a single, 2,800-square-foot interior.
He’s installing a standup bar and a soup and salad line, and building a private, soundproof karaoke room. The restaurant also boasts a walled courtyard patio that nearly doubles its capacity.
Remodeling work is scheduled to start later this month, with a grand-opening party planned for Halloween.
Born in Laos, Vongphachanh worked as a teppanyaki and sushi chef at Mikado Restaurant at The Mirage in Las Vegas. When his wife, who grew up in Tucson, wanted to move to Arizona, he got a job as a sushi chef at Blue Wasabi in Gilbert.
Although his cuisine is very Thai-infuenced — his family runs a Thai restaurant in Childress, Texas — he says his new place won’t compete with Latitude Eight, the acclaimed Thai restaurant on the same block.
“It’s a big difference,” he says. “What we make is totally different.”