Behind the Scenes at Brooklyn’s Di An Di

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Behind the Scenes at Brooklyn’s Di An Di

In Eating Between the Lines, Resy takes you behind the scenes of some of your favorite restaurants through the eyes of the people who make it all happen. Consider this photo essay a bonus director’s cut to the larger story.

In this edition, we went to Greenpoint’s modern Vietnamese restaurant, Di An Di, to try out sous chef Quan Ngo’s new prix-fixe Fish BBQ menu, designed specifically for outdoor dining (hello tabletop barbecues). 

The fish-centric menu is a reflection of chef Quan’s culinary influences, tying in his upbringing in Flushing, Queens, the childhood dishes his immigrant parents would make, and his food-filled trips to Vietnam.

Start Gallery

Outside Di An Di, just before dinner service begins. The restaurant opened in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 2018.

Photo by Deanna Ting

The entryway to the restaurant is plastered in signs and menus, a sign of dining in this COVID era.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Inside the dining room, the team gets ready for dinner service. Chef and owner Dennis Ngo (left) and sous chef Quan Ngo (right) are making sure they have everything ready for the outdoor barbecue reservations.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Sous chef Quan Ngo prepares the many herbs featured in the outdoor Fish BBQ menu. They’re featured prominently in the first course, gói cá.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Managing partner and owner Kim Hoang gets ready for dinner service.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Sous chef Quan Ngo, annotating the outdoor Fish BBQ menu with his personal notes.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Di An Di has a great lineup of cocktails, including The Water Merino (front) with gin, watermelon juice, and Thai basil; and Smoke Gets In Your Thighs (back), with mezcal, lime, and Thai chili syrup.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Every region in Vietnam has its own special way of making gói cá. Sous chef Quan Ngo put his own Southern Vietnamese spin on it by focusing more on the sweet-sour balance of flavors (“chua chua, ngọt ngọt”) using nước chấm (dipping fish sauce) with galangal bran (a Vietnamese/Teochew ingredient) and the chili jam on the cured mackerel. He demonstrates how to make your own at the table.

Photo by Deanna Ting

First things first: You have to wet the rice paper. But instead of soaking it in water, as is the norm, a spray bottle does the trick here. This idea came from a trip to Danang where sous chef Quan Ngo first encountered non-dip rice paper, something that’s hard to source here in the States. Countless R&D sessions later, he figured out that using a spray bottle was best for achieving that perfectly “al dente” texture, giving the wrap its toothsome bite.

Photo by Deanna Ting

The chefs will show you how to wrap your gói cá, adding just the right amount of herbs to each wrap. The restaurant goes through 15 to 20 pounds of fresh herbs per week. The bowl to the right holds nước chấm (dipping fish sauce) for the wraps.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Quan, with a finished gói cá, ready to eat.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Quan explains the process for making the cá cuộn chiên. Each one takes two hours to make.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Inside each cá cuộn chiên you’ll find pork, shrimp, chopped wood ear mushrooms, and golden-hued smelt roe, wrapped tightly by three layers of fish. Each roll gets battered and then fried with côm, a jade-green sticky rice flake flavored by pandan leaves.

Photo by Deanna Ting

The spread for the third course, the chả cá lã vọng, includes bún (noodles), fresh herbs, and two more dipping sauces.

Photo by Deanna Ting

The fresh bún (noodles) are made by Hau Duc Trinh (pictured here) based in Raleigh, N.C. and both Quan and Dennis say his noodles are beyond compare. “He’s great and he is a true artist and making a very specific product that no one else is doing in the United States with the care and attention to detail that he is doing,” says chef and owner Dennis Ngo. “His rice noodle products are something we utilize and [we] are the only ones that I am aware of using for a restaurant [based] in the northeast.”

Photo Courtesy Dennis Ngo

Quan “activates” the mam tom (fermented shrimp paste) with a squeeze of lime juice. The sauce is managing partner and owner Kim Hoang’s personal favorite.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Quan starts to cook the chả cá lã vọng. His version was inspired by Hanoi’s classic Chả Cá Thăng Long restaurant, where they have perfected the turmeric-marinated fish for more than a century, as well as influences from his own family, who hails from Southern Vietnam.

Photo by Deanna Ting

The turmeric marinade imbues the sea bass with a golden hue.

Photo by Deanna Ting

The cooked sea bass for the chả cá lã vọng gets topped with dill and scallions.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Diners are told to assemble their own bowls of bún, topped with fresh herbs, pieces of fish, crushed peanuts, and their choice of dipping sauces.

Photo by Deanna Ting

The dessert course for the outdoor barbecue menus changes weekly. This week, the dessert special from line cooks Cynthia Merino and Crispy Park was a refreshing calamansi ice cream.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Chef and owner Dennis Ngo.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Lead server Charlie Hoberman poses for a quick snap during service. He, along with Quan and Dennis, handles the tableside preparation for both of Di An Di’s outdoor barbecue menus.

Photo by Deanna Ting

The end of the night at Di An Di.

Photo by Deanna Ting

Photo Essays

Behind the Scenes at Brooklyn’s Di An Di

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