Chef Rob Lam Opening Lily on Clement Street, an Homage to His Vietnamese Heritage

1-lily-mural.jpeg

Lily’s dining room, with a stone counter that flanks the open kitchen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

chefroblam-erinconger.jpg

Chef Rob Lam. Photo: Erin Conger Photography.

lily-booth.jpeg

The curving banquette and family table at the back of the restaurant. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

lily-spiceboxes.jpeg

The spice boxes and antique mirrors behind the bar. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I am thrilled to announce the news that chef Rob Lam (Perle, Butterfly) is going to be opening a Vietnamese restaurant on Clement Street in the Inner Richmond, partnering with landowners Lily (Hue) Lieu and her sister, Lucy Lieu. It’s going to be called ~LILY~, and they plan to open in mid-March or so. It’s opening in the former Q, and will have a 49-seat capacity.

The buildout is by CCS Architecture, and it’s an absolute looker, with beautiful materials and details. There’s a long stone bar and counter, which runs the length of the dining room, flanking the open kitchen. Behind the bar is a large wall display of spice boxes, antique mirrors, and intricate light fixtures above the bar. On the opposite wall is a tufted banquette in cordovan leather, which runs the length of the room, and ends in a half-booth with a round table (this is going to be a popular family table).

The room is full of texture, with a carved wood lattice that covers the ceiling, with four different panel designs. The tabletops are made of natural stone, and have a subtle gleam and texture. Both the barstools and chairs are made of walnut, with a chic and minimalist design. There’s a large mural above the banquette that depicts the Qingming Festival, an important day when one shows respect to one’s ancestors, which ties in with the restaurant concept, with both the Lieus and Lam paying homage to their heritage and family recipes.

Rob Lam was born in Vietnam, and when his family moved to Southern California after the fall of Saigon, his mother opened a restaurant called Vien Dong, just outside of Los Angeles, so restaurant life is in his blood. A graduate of the University of San Francisco and The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Lam moved back to California after graduation, where he took on a postgraduate fellowship with the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena. His cuisine is very technique-driven, he cares deeply about sourcing quality ingredients, and loves bold flavor—he’s a big fan of delicious. You can always expect some soigné touches from Lam (he’s a fan of the finer things, like caviar and uni), and he also will be making his own sauces and ferments.

While Lam has included Vietnamese ingredients and dishes at his past ventures, Lily will be his first truly Vietnamese restaurant. It will be in honor of his mother and the women in his life who have helped shape him as a person and as a chef (women ruled his household growing up, and taught him about maximizing flavor while cooking, even while on a budget). Many dishes will hark back to his childhood, like the classic bun cha Hanoi (barbeque pork and rice noodles with Vietnamese herbs and lettuce and a warm fish sauce), but he’s also updating some dishes, like his mother’s bun bung chay, a noodle soup dish traditionally made with pork ribs, tamarind, turmeric, and vegetables, but he’ll be doing a vegan version, with fermented rice and tofu, lily bulb stems, green plantains, green papaya, tofu, and pea tendrils.

He’s also going to show his playful and innovative side, with a spin on a French dip with his pho dip sliders, or his bo tai chanh, a classic rare beef dish with toasted shallots, here served with bone marrow and sesame chips, and instead of lime, it’s paired with yuzu nuoc cham. Whether you come in for a solo meal at the bar counter (there will be a couple wonderful noodle soups, including his fantastic bun bo Hue oxtail-lemongrass noodle soup), or want to go for a full family-style spread (including a whole crispy fried fish or curry lamb shank), the menu will be flexible to accommodate all kinds of diners. I’ll share the menu as the opening gets closer, it’s still getting fine-tuned. (But be sure to look at my post about the tablehopper birthday dinner at the end of February, when you can preview a bunch of the dishes.)

Lam’s good friend James Yu (Great China) is heading up the wine program, which will be sure to have some real gems, with a focus on global, aromatic white and red wines built to pair well with Lam’s aromatic cuisine, offering fruit and lifting acidity. Yu is also the master of offering some incredible deals, which make wine lovers really happy whenever they open his lists.

When Lily opens in March, it will be open for dinner from Wed-Sun 5pm-10pm, and then lunch and Sunday Vietnamese breakfast will be introduced later. (I’m already scheming for a jook breakfast.)

Please note these are preview pics—the space is still under construction and is going to get a deep cleaning! Stand by for more updates on the opening soon. First, we party! 225 Clement St. at 4th Ave.