To fully appreciate Miami’s newest hot spot, Tâm Tâm, you need to understand what a quán nhậu is. “Nhậu” essentially means “let’s go drinking and feasting,” and that art of drinking and eating at a quán nhậu with no particular purpose is a national pastime in Saigon and other parts of Vietnam.
What started as a supper club called Phamily Kitchen evolved into one of Miami’s most popular pop-ups and finally opened as a full-service restaurant inspired by quán nhậu culture in May – solidifying Tâm Tâm’s status as one of Miami’s most exciting culinary additions.
Here’s everything you need to know about Tâm Tâm and why you can expect good food, good drinks, and a good time. (And where you can find a hidden karaoke machine.)
1. Tâm Tâm was born from a bond over Vietnamese culture.
Tâm Tâm is a tale of two partners brought together by their shared passion for Vietnamese culture and an appetite to introduce a new facet of Viet culture to Miami: the husband-and-husband team of chef Tam Pham, who’s originally from Saigon, and GM/sommelier Harrison Ramhofer, who spent two years living and working in Vietnam.
Ramhofer and Pham met five years ago in college at Florida International University’s hospitality school. The pair reconnected a few years later when Ramhofer returned from teaching English in Vietnam, and they quickly bonded over their connection to Vietnam and its culture. Another thing they had in common? They were disappointed by a lack of Vietnamese food options in Miami and decided to do something about it.
Perhaps most impressive: Pham never even had any formal training as a chef. Both Ramhofer and Pham had worked in the food and beverage industry their whole lives, from hosting to serving and managing, but running their own supper club and pop-ups accelerated Pham’s culinary passion. “I’m just deeply passionate about cooking, and Vietnamese food has served as a specific vehicle for me to learn and hone my skills,” Pham says.
2. It started as a supper club and became one of Miami’s most popular pop-ups.
The early days of Tâm Tâm came in the form of an underground supper club called “Phamily Kitchen.” After moving in together, Ramhofer and Pham were inspired by videos they saw of people hosting supper clubs in their homes. Knowing that Pham loved to cook, Ramhofer suggested they start their own. They served prix-fixe menus highlighting a chef-driven take on regional Viet cuisines. “After our first event, which was for mostly close friends, we had requests to host another. Through these monthly dinners, we could see there was a demand for what we were making in Miami,” explains Pham.
The supper club was paused during the pandemic, but then 1-800 Lucky, an Asian food hall in Wynwood, invited the duo to partake in a pop-up residency in 2020. They called the pop-up concept Tâm Tâm and offered an eclectic selection of Vietnamese dishes they loved. After that, Tâm Tâm began popping up around town, including at Over Under in Downtown Miami and finally a four-month stint at Low Key in Little River earlier this year while their brick-and-mortar was being built out. The Little River pop-up set them up for success, as they managed food prep, staffing, set up a reservation system, and put in place a full beer and wine list.
“During this time, we really found the voice and the idea that became Tâm Tâm today, focusing on Viet drinking food,” Pham says.
3. You won’t find pho or bánh mì on the menu.
With Tâm Tâm, the team wanted to expand beyond the typical expectations of Vietnamese food and showcase the cuisine’s vibrancy and diversity in terms of both techniques and ingredients. The menu is a blend of the kind of food Pham grew up with in Saigon that’s rarely seen in South Florida – like betel leaf-wrapped lamb, which was a Sunday favorite in the Pham household – and new creations made with local Florida ingredients combined with Viet flavors, like grouper crudo with coconut nuoc cham sauce and rice paddy herb oil. Pham works hard to source hard-to-find Vietnamese herbs and pantry ingredients to authentically bring to life Viet food’s bold flavors.
Primarily made up of small plates designed for pairing with alcoholic drinks, the menu was inspired by quán nhậu or Vietnamese drinking establishments. “In Vietnam, đồ nhậu, or drinking food, is rather ambiguous. So in a way, it’s a perfect vehicle that affords me the space to be creative as a chef within the confines of Vietnamese flavors,” Pham explains.
Pham says he’s just happy that, far more often than not, their guests understand what they’re trying to do and appreciate it. “We were told it would be a bold and risky move to open a restaurant with a cuisine that is underrepresented in Miami, let alone a specific take on it. So far, we would say our tough decision paid off,” he says.
4. And when it comes to drinking food, you need good drinks.
Being a quán nhậu means the beverage program is equally important. As sommelier, Ramhofer knew pairing wines with their menu would be difficult because there are so many competing flavors. That’s why their wine selections are mainly easy-drinking options with enough structure that they won’t be overshadowed by the strong flavors of their food.
“When pairing wine with Asian cuisine, many people will recommend sweeter wines, but I push back on this idea. The majority of our wines are crisp and tart, which complements the food better,” Ramhofer says.
You’ll also notice that when it comes to their red wine list, the options are all chilled and lighter-bodied. It’s a perfect match for Miami’s warm tropical climate (let’s be honest, these days it’s hot and steamy), which is very similar to that of Vietnam.
Tâm Tâm also offers a few signature frozen cocktails that are holdovers from their pop-up days: spiked Viet iced coffee and Mai Tais. “There was a frozen cocktail machine at the pop-up space, so we made a few cocktails for fun, and they stuck and became a part of our identity,” Ramhofer says.
5. The space is small, but loud and lively. (And did we mention the hidden karaoke machine?)
Coming to Tâm Tâm is meant to feel comfortable and casual, familiar yet foreign, all at once. The couple opened their brick-and-mortar in a space that used to be a Cuban cafe, and they decided to keep much of its original form – counter seating, a diner-y display case, ‘70s-style wood paneling, and the old ventanita window – while layering on pops of color and personality inspired by Vietnamese culture, which makes Tâm Tâm feel entirely new.
Nhậu restaurants in Vietnam are oftentimes loud, rowdy, and energetic, Tam explains, and that’s exactly the kind of vibe they wanted Tâm Tâm to embody. The 36-seat restaurant is small but lively, the music volume is always set to high, and it’s even a party in the bathroom, where you’ll find a hidden karaoke machine. “Ultimately, we just want everyone to have a good time, enjoying great food and drinks,” Pham says.