Chef Tin Vuong’s one-of-a-kind eatery is headed to Downtown LA’s Restaurant Row.
Written by Constance Dunn
Photos courtesy of Little Sister
For Chef Tin Vuong, opening his Manhattan Beach restaurant Little Sister in 2013 was all about carving out a place of his own. “Little Sister was super personal,” says the restaurateur. “I was in a frame of mind where I thought, ‘I’m just going to do what I want, and either people are going to like it or hate it.’”
Two years later, the people continue to give a collective thumbs up to Vuong’s popular 50-seat place on South Bay’s unofficial Restaurant Row—just north of Manhattan Beach Boulevard on Manhattan Avenue, and steps from Darren’s, Fishing with Dynamite and Manhattan Beach Post. As testament to the young chef/restauranteur’s iron work ethic, despite spending an inordinate amount of time in the South Bay tending to his and partner Jed Sanford’s successful roster of restaurants, which includes Steak and Whiskey, Abigaile and Día de Campo, Vuong admits, “The honest truth is that, as long as I’ve worked in the South Bay, I’ve never stepped foot on the beach.”
Little Sister’s distinctive dining room is decked with wood-plank flooring, school house desk chairs and smooth concrete walls stenciled with butterflies and song lyrics. A keen menu of Asian small plates—from Hong Kong steamed sea bream and Myanmar okra curry to Vietnamese pork belly crepes and Singapore curry noodles—mingles with French cheese and petite pastries. The beverage list includes sake, craft beers and a well-chosen slew of wines, California and French mostly, along with a comely selection of “Go On and Try Its,” including Canadian Ice Wine and a Grenache Blanc blend from Paso Robles.
Noting how seamless and how well the mash-up of his personal influences work at Little Sister, Vuong tells, “I was in a very creative space at that time, and I wasn’t trying to put a ‘concept’ together. The concept was me, and I carried that through everything, including the decor and music.”
Starting soon, local fans of Little Sister will have yet another reason to venture outside the South Bay and head to Downtown LA to dine. To 523 West 7th Street, to be precise, between Grand Avenue and Olive Street. That’s where, in June, Vuong is opening another Little Sister. “On a business level, downtown is an emerging market,” he says. “Also, there’s not a lot of good Asian food up there in my opinion.” The whole project, Vuong notes, “happened organically” when his broker came to him with “the perfect space on a great street.”
“If I had a checklist of restaurant wants, the location just checked all my boxes,” he says. Just around the corner from Los Angeles Athletic Club, the new Little Sister will be positioned centrally along Restaurant Row, right across the street from Bottega Louie and a block from Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa.
As far as food goes, Vuong says: “At least 50 percent of the menu is going to be different, for sure.” The new location will also be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (The Manhattan Beach location serves dinner every night, and lunch Friday through Sunday only.) And if you’re wondering how Little Sister’s menu could possibly be transposed to breakfast, Vuong offers that Asian-style breakfast porridges will be part of the mix, along with “things that I, or a lot of people in Asia, eat in the morning, but might seem like lunch or dinner.” He pauses. “It’s like having dinner for breakfast.”
Speaking of eating, when Vuong is asked what his favorite thing to dine on at Little Sister is, he says, “Anything I can fit in a bowl. Anything with curry. Anything with chili. Fresh herbs. Usually it’s like a smorgasbord of things. My bowl.”
Sounds about right.
1131 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266