Local interior designers go global at Vancouver’s most photogenic restaurants

The interior design of Main Street’s Anh and Chi honours Vietnamese culture with cross-generational appeal.

straight.com | Lucy Lau | March 8, 2017

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When siblings Vincent and Amelie Nguyen decided to take the reins at their parents’ restaurant—the long-standing Pho Hoang on Main Street—in 2015, a revamp was in order. But before the aging space was gutted and transformed into the bright, welcoming room that, today, is known as Anh and Chi, there were a few ground rules to establish.

First, the Nguyens would continue to offer the traditional, home-style Vietnamese dishes, such as pho and bún bò Hue—a spicy noodle soup that often includes beef shank, oxtail, and pigs’ feet—that their mother and late father had perfected. Second, the restaurant’s new interiors, though updated, were to maintain elements of the family’s heritage.

“We opened Anh and Chi to honour and showcase Vietnamese culture,” explains Amelie by phone. “And part of that is respecting, recognizing, and showing certain aspects that we remember as kids, what our parents experienced during their time growing up in Vietnam, and what we’ve seen during our travels back.”

Working with local design firm House of Bohn, the brother-and-sister team created a space that propels Vietnamese cuisine into the realm of mid-range to upscale dining while staying true to their humble roots. Gold and brass fixtures—including a dramatic cascade pendant modelled, by request of the Nguyens, after the shape of a Vietnamese conical hat—shine alongside layers of elegantly stained wood and graphic French-colonial-era tiles.

Numberless metal chopsticks form an intricate fan pattern behind the bar, while punches of earthy green in the tropical stained-glass window, Vietnam-sourced oil lanterns, and the bathroom’s banana-leaf wallpaper evoke the lush terrain of the Southeast Asian nation.

“Every piece that we picked out, there’s a meaning behind it and why we did it,” says Amelie. Indeed, the grand, contemporary space is a far cry from the no-frills pho joints that have earned spots on countless cheap-eats lists. But the nods to Vincent and Amelie’s native Vietnam are also indicative of the far-flung destinations restaurateurs and interior designers are increasingly paying homage to in subtle—and highly Instagramable—ways.