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A Vietnamese pop-up birthed in Portland, Oregon is relocating to D.C. Its twenty-something founders are hoping to take advantage of the rise of Southeast Asian cuisine in the city.
“So many restaurants are doing a similar thing, like Bad Saint and Little Serow, and they’re just killing it,” says Sarah Bui, whose family is from Saigon. “Everybody just really likes taking traditional, homey dishes and bringing it to a different level.”
The pop-up from Bui and her partner Anna Vocaturo is called Doi Dua, which means chopsticks in Vietnamese. A typical evening involves a six-course tasting menu with dishes like bánh khot—a mini shrimp pancake flavored with coconut milk and turmeric. “People are familiar with the larger crêpe. Ours is smaller, cute, and crispy because we make it with beer,” Bui says.
Another dish that makes frequent appearances is a lotus root salad with jicama, carrots, slow cooked pork belly, and fish sauce caramel. “Vietnamese cooking is all about balance—it’s sweet, salty, acidic, fresh, cool and hot,” Vocaturo adds.
The first chance to try Doi Dua’s full tasting menu will be June 29 at the new downtown WeWork space (1875 K St. NW). Doi Dua is teaming up with the Red Eye Menus to put on the dinner, which will cost $134 per person, including drinks, tax, and tip. Red Eye Menus is the sherry-meets-Asian-food pop-up from Chantal Tseng, Carlie Steiner, and Holly Barzyk. They’re dubbing this event “PhoGetYoSherrySelf.” (Tickets will be available here.) UPDATE (6/23/16): This event has been cancelled.
You can also try food from Doi Dua on June 19. Bui and Vocaturo are taking over the kitchen at Archipelago from open until close (or until they run out) that evening. They’ll serve drinking snacks meant to pair with tiki drinks.
These two pop-ups are likely the first of many from the Doi Dua duo, who may stick to a pop-up model instead of seeking out a brick-and-mortar location.
“It’s really fun to go from place to place and meet different people,” Vocaturo says. “We like not being anchored to a restaurant.”
The non-traditional setting suits Doi Dua. Prior to launching the pop-up, Bui didn’t have experience working in a professional kitchen. Vocaturo on the other hand helped open Rose’s Luxury as a line cook, making her return to D.C. a bit of a homecoming.
Bui met Vocaturo, while working in a vineyard in Salem. “We realized we had awesome chemistry in the kitchen and thought it would be fun to do a pop-up together,” Vocaturo says. Bui was making her mother’s recipes, and Voactura got hooked.
“With Vietnamese food, as soon as you taste it, you start to crave it,” she says. “It’s like an addiction.”