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Best Thing I Ate This Week: Vietnamese and Filipino flavors find harmony at Fil N' Viet

Matthew Odam
Austin 360
The combination of Vietnamese flavors on the beef rib and Filipino-style garlic rice captures the culinary philosophy of Fil N' Viet.

Crispy, fatty cubes of sisig — a Filipino preparation of pork face and belly that leaves the meat supple on the inside and crunchy out the outside — spill from a Vietnamese bánh mì, dressed with that sandwich’s traditional pickled vegetables, jalapeño and cilantro. The savory sandwich at Fil N’ Viet  is a perfect marriage of two Southeast Asian culinary cultures. 

The pandemic has served as quite an adjustment period for some couples. If they were fortunate to work from home, limited social engagements meant a lot more time together. The forced closeness and isolation led some to a breaking point, or at least an understandable irritation. 

But the upheaval brought chef Kevin Truong and his wife, Rosie Mina-Truong, closer. They decided to open a business together.

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Rosie Mina-Truong and Kevin Truong opened FIl N' Viet in East Austin in March.

When the pandemic emptied hotels of their guests, Kevin, who has traveled extensively in Asia and worked at the now-closed Counter 357, lost his position as chef de cuisine at Revue inside the Fairmont Austin hotel. That break gave him the opportunity to focus on a more personal passion.

Kevin, who is first-generation Vietnamese American, teamed with Rosie, who had turned to cooking some of her mother’s recipes at home as a means of comfort and connection to her native Philippines. The couple that met while working at the luxury Fairmont decided to wed their love of food and culture.

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Sisig bánh mì weds the culinary cultures of the Philippines and Vietnam.

The juicy fried chicken wings, some of the best in the city, blend sweet and sour profiles of tamarind and the Filipino sinigang soup for deep flavor. We’ll call the accompanying garlic ranch a delicious concession to the state where the couple met. 

The Filipino staple of chargrilled chicken inasal is tangy and fragrant with lemongrass and punctuated by a pert calamansi dipping sauce. And the beef rib, tender from a braise and firmed up by the grill, vibrates with the five spice buzz of pho. Sitting alongside a delicate and artful rectangle of Vietnamese quiche and soft mound of Filipino garlic rice, the plate visually echoes Kevin’s fine dining background but without all of the attendant fuss. 

If you go

Fil N' Viet

Where: 1720 E. 12th St.

Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Phone: 281-798-4334

More information: filnviet.com

Note: The couple intend to move their trailer down the street to Camp East at 2903 E. 12th St. in October.