Portland’s strong Vietnamese food scene continues to grow, this time on NW 23rd Ave. with the opening of Hem 23, a Vietnamese street-food restaurant and cocktail bar, in the works for over six months now. Willamette Week reports that Hem, owned by Saigon-born Tuan Lam, is throwing its grand opening on Friday January 26.
The name was designed to reflect the amalgam of Vietnamese and Portland culture that the restaurant seeks to represent in its food. Hem is the Vietnamese word for alley; alleys in Vietnam often contain their own unique culture and social networks. For Lam, Portland shares those characteristics, with many places in the city “encompassing their own individuality.” According to him, NW 23rd is no different: you can “feel the vibe as soon as you walk onto the street, and so the idea of Hem 23 was born.”
Hem 23 will focus on Vietnamese street food, including noodle soups, skewers, and grilled shrimp, as well as items rarely seen in Portland, such as frog legs with lemongrass and turmeric. It will also have a strong focus on beer, wine, and cocktails, bringing in Multnomah Whiskey Library alumni Jeanette Connor as bar manager and Jacob Grier to design the initial menu.
Grier tells Eater that the cocktails are aiming for creativity but also approachability.
“While we use spirits that may be less familiar, like aquavit, cachaca, and New Deal’s Cascadia Liqueur, we mix them in cocktails that anyone can enjoy. We also incorporate ingredients like lime leaf, coconut cream, and Vietnamese coffee that pair well with the cuisine.”
The restaurant will be Lan’s first spot in Portland proper, although the restaurateur boasts a chain of successful Vietnamese restaurants in the suburbs, Lá Sen Vietnamese Grill.
STATUS — Hem 23 is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sundays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m at 1514 NW 23rd Ave.