My Uniform: Kim Hoang and Tuan Bui of Di an Di Restaurant

My Uniform: Kim Hoang and Tuan Bui of Di an Di Restaurant

Kim and Tuan are a real life couple that also co-own and operate one of NYC’s most popular restaurants. Before COVID it was nearly impossible to get a table at their modern Vietnamese eatery, Di an Di, without at least an hour long wait. They felt their world changed overnight, as many of us did when New York forced all restaurants to temporarily close. Today, they’ve pivoted, designed a new takeout menu, offer outdoor dining options and have bounced back in a pretty inspiring way. We spent an afternoon with them at their Greenpoint restaurant talking Wet Seal raids, rave culture and of course, food.

ON EARLY STYLE

Kim: I grew up in Pearland, TX a suburb outside of Houston. Our house was on acres of land with dirt roads so my siblings and I were always outside playing and riding our bikes in ditches. I was such a tom boy and paid no attention to how to dress. As a teenager I was a suburban mall rat. I was very into shopping at Rampage, Contempo Casuals and Wet Seal. We’d drive into Houston to go to the “big mall” - The Galleria and just endlessly wander about at the mall. In my 20’s fashion revolved around going to Forever 21 and buying a clubbing shirt for the weekend. We repeated this every weekend. It was truly terrible. 

 

Tuan: I grew up in Northern Virginia. At age 10 a kid with high socks and whatever and as a teenager I was wearing whatever one was dressing in the suburbs in the 90s. By 20 I was indie grunge immersed in rave culture with the baggy pants and a sporty tech style. Most of the time it was silly!

 

ON FIRST INVESTMENT PIECES

Kim: I had a terrible relationship with money when I was young. I remember the first time having a lot of my own money was from receiving money from relatives when I graduated high school and I ended up blowing most of it on a Moschino shirt and D&G sunglasses at the Galleria that summer. I wish i still had these items. It was so irresponsible! My older sister and I graduated high school together. She was the complete opposite of me. She probably still has her graduation money saved somewhere. 

 

Tuan: A purchase that was considered an investment was this Raf Simons parka with artwork by Peter Saville, the iconic graphic designer that worked on New Order and Joy Division album covers.  Held on to  it for over 15 years and sold it this year for almost triple what I paid for.

 

ON COVID + OWNING A BUSINESS

Kim: We had to lay off our entire workforce on March 15th. I’ll never forget that day. Tuan and I along with our partner Dennis took a few days to strategize and reopened one week later with a small team of 4 back of house members running delivery with 6 items on the menu. We came to terms that we were no longer a 70-seat dine-in restaurant with an hour waitlist. In the past we would workshop ideas for weeks or months to introduce a new menu, strategy or idea but during this time we weren’t waiting for everything to be perfect. All ideas were on the table and as a result in this short time we’ve launched a sister brand to house our take-out/delivery concept, lunch service, happy hour service, pantry boxes with zoom cooking demonstrations and a new BBQ prix-fixe menu for sidewalk dining that is by reservation only. We’re busier than ever and I’m so thankful to have a team that is willing to do whatever it takes to continue to run payroll and keep the lights on every week.

 

Tuan: We went from business as usual managing 50 employees to laying off and furloughing everyone in 24 hours.  Your world as everyone’s else stopped to a screeching halt.  But you just have to move on and it was survival mode for a while until we pivoted and now it’s working for us.

 

ON THE UNEXPECTED SURPRISES OF A PANDEMIC

Kim: The outpouring of love and support we receive from our neighbors and regulars make this difficult time unexpectedly easy. It feels good to know that people miss us being a restaurant and are rooting for us. We do our best to plan and to stay ahead and in control but It’s such a strange time right now. The shut down, the phases of reopening, the protests, the curfews, the city mandates, the updates on PPP guidance, the weather - all of that affects how we operate. It’s been especially hard settling into a routine, but I suppose that is to be expected. 

 

Tuan: Trying to balance some path to profitability meanwhile foster a safe, healthy space for your employees and customers is, no surprise, difficult.  Unexpectedly hard, are dealing with different guidelines and mandates from various agencies state and city wise that is overwhelming and maddening.   You just do the best you can during these impossible times.  Unexpectedly easy is having partners and a team that rally together to get through this.  We have each other’s back and grateful that our health—physical, mental, and emotional—is in a good place.  



THREE THINGS WITH KIM

3 things you never leave home without:

  1. Spritz of perfume (Frederic Malle, Portrait of a Lady)
  2. Headphones
  3. A sense of purpose? I don’t know...  

 

3 unexpected ingredients everyone should have in their pantry.

  1. Fish Sauce
  2. Jars of Tonnino tuna fillets
  3. Fried shallots 

 

Your uniform, in 3 pieces.

  1. A crop top
  2. A high waisted pant
  3. White tennis shoes    

 

THREE THINGS WITH TUAN

3 unexpected ingredients everyone should have in their pantry.

  1. Coffee
  2. Canned/jarred tuna
  3. Rice.

 

3 things making quarantine a bit more joyful.

  1. Ice cream
  2. Netflix
  3. Zooming with family.

 

Your uniform, in 3 pieces.

  1. Button up shirt with rolled up sleeves
  2. Pants with drawstring waist
  3. Slip-on shoes

 

Thank you Kim + Tuan

Kim and Tuan were photographed at their Greenpoint restaurant Di an Di by Taylor Jewell

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