During the pandemic, the concept of a food business became an amorphous one as the lines between direct-to-consumer, delivery, and bricks-and-mortar blurred. With businesses pivoting from physical third spaces to digital ones, novel approaches became a necessity. Having taken off during this period, Oranj, the natural wine subscription service known for its elite guest wine curators, have almost taken the reverse approach, opening a new bar and gallery space in Shoreditch towards the end of 2022.
Housed in a converted warehouse behind Brick Lane, its owners have brought drinkers together to explore everything from zippy Catalonian whites, low ABV reds from Jura and orange wines from across the globe. And, true to form, its curatorial vision for dining has been as razor-sharp as its eye for a stellar natural wine list – its first chefs-in-residence including the lauded New Orleans-style cuisine of Decatur and Budgie Montoya of Sarap. The newest arrival, Ha’s Đặc Biệt, arrives for a monthlong Vietnamese-American residency starting March 1 armed with an international reputation, having become one of New York’s hottest pop-ups before establishing itself quickly as a must-visit in Paris at Bistrot Paul Bert.
While Anthony Ha and Sadie Mae Burns – the couple behind Ha’s Đặc Biệt – call New York home, the two enjoy playing around with flavours from all over the globe. The menu has been kept under wraps, but Ha and Burns have revealed that the line-up they are developing for their London stint can be best described as simple, straightforward, and spicy. Here’s what to expect – and why it’s a must-visit.
In 2023, Everything Starts With a DM
To no one’s surprise in the digital age, their relationship with Oranj began with a casual Instagram DM. It wasn’t long after that initial chat that Ha and Burns hopped on a call with Jasper Delamothe, one of the owners. Beyond a well-equipped kitchen, the duo vet their potential partners by their level of investment and interest in the project, something they immediately saw in Delamothe.
“We just want it to be a good experience and we choose the people we work with,” says Burns. “And because [Oranj] is new, it’s exciting for us to start this with them and we can expect the level of energy towards the work can be very high.”
Ha’s Đặc Biệt Is The Owners’ Take On a Vietnamese Bistro — And Everything Arrives with Rice
Since meeting a little over seven years ago at Mission Chinese, Burns and Ha have since set out on their two-person mission to reimagine Vietnamese food – from running their food cart Mr. Fish Sauce to month-long residencies across New York and Paris. While much time has been spent on experimenting and playing with different styles, it wasn’t until their four-month residency at a cafe in New York where they honed their distinct style of cooking.
They liken their food and style to that of a Vietnamese bistro: “We think of bistro food as very straightforward,” says Burns, adding: “Sometimes we describe our food as food on a plate which is exactly what bistro food is – everything is simple and done well. Ha chimes in, “But instead of serving it with chips, everything comes with rice.”
Pulling multiple elements from Vietnamese cuisine, Ha’s Đặc Biệt focuses on food that feels nostalgic. “The best compliment we get about our food is that they are reminded of home and reminded of their grandma,” says Burns. “I love when people say it’s like their grandma’s food.”
“It’s also how we know they understand the simpleness and deliciousness of our food,” Ha adds. “The best one is an equal exchange of ‘here it is’ and ‘wow, it’s amazing,”.
“It’s like that Ratatouille moment, you know? That’s what we’re always chasing,” Burns laughs.
More from Resy
What To Expect at Thomas Straker’s Debut London Restaurant
Four Things To Know About Eline, a Shoreditch Newcomer with Plenty of Heart
Where to Drink Outstanding Natural Wine in London
18 Exceptional Restaurants in Shoreditch
Five of The Best Dishes at Miznon, In Chef Eyal Shani’s Own Words
The Resy Guide to The Best Restaurants in Soho
How Ramo Soho Channels Its Owners’ Filipino Heritage Through Ramen, in Five Dishes
For Ha’s British Edition, Expect Savoury Pies, Oysters, Pâté Chaud, and Plenty of Nước Mắm
While the menu remains a work-in-progress, what the duo promises to deliver is their own Vietnamese-inspired take on signature British dishes.
“We’re excited to see what Vietnamese food is already like in London,” says Burns, explaining that they look forward to getting inspired by the city and playing with ingredients and dishes that they don’t have access to in New York.
“There’s definitely oysters, salad and pâté chaud,” hints Ha about the menu. “And the thing I’m most excited to play around with are the savoury pies in terms of different fillings and different stews,” adds Burns.
Burns also enthuses that diners can also expect that their dishes will be laced with nước mắm (fish sauce) and chili. “We’ve been upping the ante with our spice, so we hope the people of London are open to that.”
What’s next for Ha’s Đặc Biệt?
When asked about their decision to mix personal life with work, the two are very quick to say that working so closely together is what drove Ha’s Đặc Biệt to be so special. “The biggest challenge is that it’s hard and emotional to work with your partner,” says Burns. “But it’s what makes Ha’s what it is – how we both love cooking and spending time together.”
The two admit that they are more drawn to longer stints. And while Ha and Burns have not set any plans yet in stone post-Oranj, they are toying with the idea to collaborate with an iconic restaurant in New York or do a residency in Los Angeles. For the two, another dream project would be with St. John if they were to return to London. That’s something we can also definitely get behind.
Ha’s Đặc Biệt at Oranj runs from March 1 to April 2. Make a reservation here.
Juli Suazo is a freelance writer based in London.