Bún owner and chef Jason Vuong (second from left) stands with his wife (far left) and restaurant staff. Photo courtesy of Bún Restaurant.
For those who enjoy late-night dinners or a hearty midnight snack, Bún (pronounced “boon” with a sharp down tone) in Seattle’s International District offers home-cooked Vietnames and exclusive recipes created by owner and Chef, Jason Vuong. Bún is open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Taking recipes from North, Central and South Vietnam, Truong is making an emphasis on Bún — rice vermicelli round noodles — that can be used for cool salads, warm soup bowls and endless specialty dishes to fit different palates.
“The point of opening this restaurant is that I see no Vietnamese place open late,” says Vuong. “I want a place for people to eat a good bowl of Vietnamese noodle at night.”
Perfect for the after-party crowd and the late grubbers, Vuong wants to make the restaurant accommodating, service-oriented and also a place to build community.
“I am also a promoter for New Saigon Productions, and I bring in Vietnamese singers to perform at different venues and casinos,” says Vuong. “So every night after a show, there’s no Vietnamese place that is open for eating.”
Vuong saw opening a restaurant as an ideal way to offer his performers and audiences a place to continue mingling after the show, enjoy a meal that is appetizing and also fulfill his love for cooking.
“You have to really love cooking to open up a restaurant,” says Vuong. “And I want to test my cooking skills and see if people like it.”
Vuong learned to cook when he was young after dropping out of school. When he started living with friends, he didn’t want to settle for the instant, microwaveable food. Vuong wanted real, home-cooked meals.
“I wanted to eat good, so I got to learn how to cook. I began to ask my mom and aunts for recipes and ideas. I kept practicing,” remembers Vuong.
Bún Restaurant is now situated where the historical China Gate Restaurant used to be.
“I want to bring back up Chinatown. In 1994, the time when I was growing up, there were a lot more people walking around the streets,” says Vuong.
After 20 years of business, China Gate was closed in 2008. Since then, several businesses have tried to occupy the space and attract crowds back to the block on Seventh Avenue South.
With the opening of Bún Restaurant, Vuong would want to see more friends and family come back to the International District and build the same community he saw in the ‘90s.
Despite the obvious competition of restaurants and the challenges of parking, Vuong vows to make a customer’s trip worthwhile.
“I know it is tough opening up in Chinatown, especially with meter parking until 8 p.m.,” says Vuong. “But I am the only Vietnamese restaurant owner that will open late night like the other Chinese restaurants. Now people get to choose Vietnamese food at night as well.”
To make his menu unique and one-of-a-kind, Vuong has created special dishes that cannot be eaten anywhere else in Seattle, he claims. His deep-fried shrimp wraps with scallion, Tom Kah coconut rice noodle with eggplant, king mushrooms, minced pork and prawns, fresh pork ball shitake mushroom rice noodle soup, La Vong pan-fried saba fish with dill over vermicelli, and Hanoi skewer pork with ham patties and vermicelli noodles are all Bún-exclusive and inspired by the different regions of Vietnam for which they were named.
“I have to be willing to step up a notch to give people a reason to come down to eat,” says Vuong. “If I cook the same thing as everyone else, why would they want to come down here?”
Since the grand opening of Bún six months ago, Vuong has been listening attentively to his customer’s tastebuds and constantly modifying his menu to set himself apart from other restaurants.
“I want to make a menu that you can’t find anywhere,” says Vuong. “I really want it to be worthwhile for the customers, especially when they are coming down here and paying for parking.”
So far, Vuong has received comments from customers that the food reminds them of their mom’s cooking and is a piece of home for them.
“I want to bring the concept of Bún to everyone beyond pho,” says Vuong. “Bún is actually very common where people can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a midnight snack.”
In the upcoming year, Vuong hopes his restaurant will be the go-to spot for late-night eaters and the perfect joint for friends and family to gather.
In addition to bringing up the revenue for his restaurant, he hopes he can also support other businesses around him.
“Not only do I want people to come out at night to my restaurant,” says Vuong, “But I also would want the businesses around here to survive, too.”