Opening Dispatch

Now Open: One of the Year's Most Promising New Restaurants

At Ramie, the siblings behind Ba Sa take Vietnamese food in a new direction.

By Allecia Vermillion May 22, 2024

The former Omega Ouzeri space is ready. So are the Vietnamese spirits.

After nearly five years of cooking destination Vietnamese fare on Bainbridge Island, the brother and sister behind Ba Sa have made the leap into Seattle. Trinh and Thai Nguyen officially open their new restaurant, Ramie, on Wednesday, May 22. Between the siblings’ bona fides and the look of the opening menu, this place ranks high in the year’s roster of promising new restaurants.

The Nguyens have turned the former Omega Ouzeri space at 1529 14th Avenue on Capitol Hill into a modern Vietnamese restaurant that intentionally bypasses familiar staples like pho, banh mi, and vermicelli bowls. The goal, says Trinh, is dishes that feel like unexplored territory whether you have a passing acquaintance with Vietnamese fare, or grew up with these flavors at home.

That might mean bap cai cuon thit, or pork and cabbage rolls enriched with a pork veloute, or a familiar whole branzino, except grilled over charcoal with a rainbow of chimichurri, chili sambal, and cucumber kimchi. Dinners start with banh thieu—fried bread with honey butter—and end with two types of che, or dessert, that rebuilds well-known flavors like sweet black bean or tropical fruit cocktail using classic French techniques. “It’s very well-known to Vietnamese people,” says Trinh. But in execution, “It doesn’t look anything like what they know.”

She and Thai designed Ramie around the Vietnamese concept of nhau, the act of gathering to hang out, eat, and drink. Thus the cocktails received as much careful thought as the food. Bar manager Jen Rae (an alum of Deep Dive and part of the Amino popup) delved into the new wave of Viet-distilled gin, vodka, and whiskey that’s making its way to the US. Cocktails use ingredients like pandan liqueur, Hanoi-based Song Cai amaro, or vermouth infused with ngo om, or rice paddy herb.

The Nguyens are tight with the Phams, the family behind Phở Bắc and its related Viet-focuesd cocktail bar, Phởcific Standard Time. “They were tasters,” says Trinh, though Ramie’s bar program is its own independent thing.

The Nguyens had long considered opening a restaurant in Seattle, even looked at various locations over the years. Trinh and Thai opened Ba Sa in 2019, after growing up with their parents’ restaurant, Pho T&N, in Poulsbo. Ba Sa’s lineup of refined Vietnamese dishes built a following among locals and Seattle folk coming in on the ferry. But after all the pandemic survival pivots, the menu felt more about careful versions of familiar plates rather than the level of ambition the siblings envision at Ramie. “I don’t think we were ready with Ba Sa,” says Trinh. “We were pretty young, we weren’t as knowledgeable as we are today.”

Almost five years later, they feel ready to serve up dishes like oc, or snails, a favored delicacy in Vietnam that you don’t see as much in Seattle. And to remix traditional dishes with unfamiliar ingredients, especially seasonal Northwest produce, like local pink oyster mushrooms that get a fish sauce glaze treatment (and overnight butter and broth soak) to yield something reminiscent of the chicken wings on other Vietnamese menus. “There’s so much more the Vietnamese food outside those dishes,” says Trinh. “There are so many more flavor profiles.”

When Omega Ouzeri owners Thomas and Rebecca Soukakos announced they were retiring to Greece, I fielded a flurry of curious texts from people wondering who might take over such a notable space. It’s heartening to know it’s in such capable hands. 

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