California Republic is no more. Standing in its place is Chef Quỳnh Brown’s modern Vietnamese casual fine dining experience, Lô Qûay.
The lowly lit, lovingly-decorated space feels like a graceful pastiche of some cool, modern Tribeca spot with a touch of grunge, complete with art that’s been prompted into existence thorough AI. While I don’t feel like I particularly enjoyed that aspect, that might be just my humanity raging against a machine.
Lô Qûay’s dinner tasting menu is rightfully called the Discover Menu ($148++ per pax), largely because it feels like an adventure into what Vietnamese food can offer, instead of what we’re already familiar with. Each dish is inspired by Chef Quỳnh’s Saigon childhood, crystallised through years of culinary training.
The starting set of snacks is where Chef’s pedigree shines through. Smart ingredient choices immediately lend their strength to the meal, showing up through layered flavours. The Wagyu Tartare with it’s companion caviar will be the crowd favourite, but that Pate Choux sits pretty in this cavalcade of taste. Pate for creamy luxury, Scallop mousseline for flavours, and a pop of kimchi remoulade to seal the deal.
The Murotsu Oyster with bone marrow and caviar gives a full-bodied succulence to the hot dish section of the meal. The seared finish thoughtfully lends some smoke to the dish, setting up an easy layup for the caviar to score the win.
Chef’s Bánh Mì Wellington displays innovation and intellect. A mix of Iberico pork jowl, pork crackling, house made pork liver pate and kombu butter come in bite-sized packages of puff pastry. Coming from left field, a Maggi (yes that Maggi) Demi glacé and pickled Japanese cucumber gives this dish the panache its owed. Sommelier Clement Masson’s intelligent pick of a Suntory Premium Malt beer pairing takes this dish into orbit. It’s this refined sort of riffing that has me wondering if we’re seeing a new rockstar chef in the making.
The cumulation of this innovative run is the roasted duck breast. It’s not the flambé you need to look out for. Rather, keep your tastebuds open for the dark chocolate hoisin sauce. Whatever sweetness that’s in there is perfectly balanced out for hoisin’s tangy saltiness. This sits perfectly with the deeper flavour that duck is known for. It needs to be taken in its entirety, with a generous pour of Burgundy.
Lô Qûay’s menu clearly had time to gestate in the mind of Chef Quỳnh. It’s a series of well-thought out dishes that form a considered sequence. Sommelier Masson’s picks impressed with his willingness to deviate from the norm. Assuming ideas keep flowing in the kitchen, there’s no reason why Lô Qûay’s will be anything but great.