To fall in love with Madame Vo is to fall in love with Jimmy Ly, the chef and owner.
We first met Jimmy through the Viet mafia in NYC. Upon first glance, we assumed he'd be the too-cool-for-school kid in the room (his IG name alone had us intimidated!).
But we were wonderfully surprised by Jimmy's sincerity and deep passion for real deal Viet food that flows through his veins. His loud brand is actually strengthened by an earnest demeanor and the quiet confidence of a dude who can throw down in the kitchen without breaking a sweat.
Hanging with Jimmy feels like hanging with your cool older brother - he'll take care of you, casually flipping in between English and Vietnamese, while making sure you leave his house happily fed.
You can't tell Jimmy's story without making mention of his partner in business and life, Yen Vo. (Yes, she is the Madame Vo herself - her gorgeous face is depicted on the wall when you first walk into their East Village pho spot!) Yen is originally from a big Vietnamese community in Houston and wanted to find her traditional Viet classics in NYC.
With that goal in mind, the husband-wife team started Madame Vo, whose first outpost is on 10th Street in the East Village. They found their big break when Carrie Bradshaw herself (actress Sarah Jessica Parker) posted about the fledgling restaurant. The lines haven’t stopped forming since - Jimmy still fondly calls her the “godmother of Madame Vo.”
Off the back of that success, Jimmy wanted to showcase an oft-overlooked part of Viet cuisine - barbecue culture. They were inspired by the beauty that is “7 món” - a multi-course meal composed of one protein (usually beef or fish) prepared 7 different ways.
If you’re Viet, you’ve definitely had this style of meal at one point in your life (you know we love our family-style!) - but the “seven dishes” style had yet to break into the American mainstream.
This move is honestly the best reflection of Jimmy - always taking big moonshots, but with his heart firmly rooted in the culture.
He is a family man through and through, with two adorable young sons whom he loves deeply and for whom he builds tirelessly for.
In the words of Jay-Z, Jimmy isn’t a businessman - he’s a business, man. In addition to the two popular Madame Vo concepts (pho shop and barbecue joint) in the East Village, he’s hard at work on bigger and better things - even a global pandemic hasn't stopped Jimmy from finding creative ways to showcase Viet culture.
Everything Jimmy does is grounded in his heartfelt desire to introduce and celebrate underrated, overlooked Vietnamese dishes into the mainstream.