Ớt Bistro Bringing Asian Comfort Food to Thousand Oaks

Giang Huynh and Johnny Quan want to give their customers the depth of flavor and taste of their culture while sparing them the burn of traditional Vietnamese cuisine
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Although “ớt” is the Vietnamese word for “chili pepper,” soon-to-open Ớt Bistro co-owner Giang Huynh told What Now Los Angeles that the aim of the eatery will be to serve Vietnamese-style home cooking at a manageable, tempered level of spiciness that is approachable for even the most capsaicin-shy patrons.

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The restaurant at the former site of Azi Grill on 245 N Moorpark Rd is slated to open in February, and although its menu has yet to be finalized, dishes served there will be inspired by meals cooked by Vietnamese-born Huynh’s parents, who are restauranteurs in the country.

“People usually think about Vietnamese cuisine as very authentic, but some types of Vietnamese recipes come with very strong ingredients and people are like ‘okay, too strong flavor, we can’t handle it,” said Huynh. “We want to bring a diverse menu with different options — not authentic Vietnamese, but we’re checking the flavor a little bit so they can all handle the food.” 

Huynh’s husband and co-owner of Ớt Bistro Johnny Quan already also owns TEAklish Boba and Cafe in Lompoc; however, when the couple moved to from Lompoc to Oxnard, they seized an opportunity to pursue a long-held aspiration.

“We always wanted to do the food industry, something related to Asian culture,” said Huynh. “We just said ‘ok, this is a big opportunity.'”

All the Vietnamese must-haves — pho, banh mi, rice plates and noodle dishes — will be served upon Ớt Bistro’s grand opening. Vietnamese eggs coffees, iced teas and other culturally-authentic pairings will be on the menu (although, if the couple’s goal is met, customers won’t need to gulp them down to numb burning sensations in their mouths.) Customers who opt for less spicy versions of the traditional dishes can be assured that they will still be flavorful.

“It’s not spicy unless they request — we have a different sauce,” said Huynh. “We’ll have chili and pepper in there when we make it, [but it] doesn’t taste spicy, it tastes strong. Every dish comes with a dipping sauce, we don’t just eat this food by itself. We can add more basil powder, cinnamon powder, all kinds of herbs [to Pho].”

Christina Coulter

Christina Coulter

Christina Coulter is an eager journalist from Connecticut with dogged tenacity and the sensibilities of a small-town reporter. Before and after graduating from Marist College in 2017, Christina covered local news for a slew of publications in the Northeast, including The Wilton Bulletin, the Millbrook Independent, The Kingston Times, The New Paltz Times and the Rockland Times. For nearly four years before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina was the lead reporter for The Saugerties Times, living and breathing the goings-on of the 20,000-strong Hudson Valley community. Christina weathered the pandemic in Atlanta, where she got a taste for the city's people and flavors. After a brief stint covering news in Connecticut and New York once more with The Daily Voice, Christina was taken on by What Now Atlanta and What Now Los Angeles, where she aims to unweave the intricacies of both cities' bright restaurant communities.
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