This is The Feast 14, in which we highlight the most anticipated projects of the new season. Here now, Nguyen Tran talks about the future of Starry Kitchen.
When Bistro LQ closed earlier this year, Nguyen Tran of Starry Kitchen brought back the cuisine of Laurent Quenioux via a successful pop-up series downtown—and now, Tran has plans to expand on that concept and the Starry Kitchen brand by year’s end. We spoke to him to get the details.
Do you have any more pop-ups planned with Laurent Quenioux this fall?
The pop-up with Laurent right now is pretty much indefinite. We are going to try and bring back a lot of Laurent’s staples—the cheese cart and the 18-course truffle menu from Bistro LQ.
Why did you bring Quenioux into Starry Kitchen? It’s definitely an unusual pairing.
We started it out of the apartment because my wife got laid off. The reason Laurent came to my restaurant was because he closed Bistro LQ. We thought it would be a fun thing to do together while he figured out what to do.
What have you learned from each other?
When we brought Laurent on I told him he could have carte blanche, that I'd take a step back. He told me that no one presents food the way I do and that it really worked for the front of house. So for me it was all about learning [French] techniques that we don’t use.
What do you have planned next?
In terms of Starry Kitchen—right now it’s all Laurent, all the time. It looks like it’s going until the end of the year but I’d like to carry on a longer conversation beyond this pop-up. As much as I dress up in banana suits, we are really serious about this.
Will you expand?
I’ve been approached by many investors but I’ve told them all no. I only do things that really resonate with me because if I don’t it shows. I’ve been sitting on expanding [Starry Kitchen] for so long... well, sitting is the wrong word. It’s hard to explain. If once I leave this downtown location, I don’t want people to say 'it’s gotten worse since the owners left.'
Do you have something in the works?
I’ve been looking at places on the Westside. I’m hoping that I can announce it in a few months and be open by the end of the year. My wife has been heavily developing a new menu. It will be the same concept that we do at lunch but more ‘dinner-centric’ family-style and a little more exotic. [The Feast]