Chefs Tony and Jessica Nguyen have set an opening date for the highly-anticipated modern Asian restaurant, snō (3611 Juanita St., St. Louis, MO, 63116), on Friday, August 19. Chef Tony Nguyen returned to his hometown of St. Louis to open his first restaurant this year, alongside his wife Jessica Nguyen, also a chef and marine biologist, who will serve as the general manager and will lead snō’s sustainable seafood program. Named after his mother, snō is a culmination of Tony’s career as a chef and showcases his talents in European technique and Asian cooking. In addition to an a la carte dinner menu, a dim sum cart will offer unexpected bites utilizing Asian herbs, aromatics and spices. Plans for a tasting menu, reserved for the semi-private main level of the restaurant, will be announced later this year. Reservations for dinner experiences can be made here.
After working in a number of prestigious restaurants on the West Coast, the Chefs Nguyen decided to set up roots back in his hometown of St. Louis. Snō is named after Tony’s mother, Tuyet, whose name translates to “snow” in Vietnamese. Much of Tony’s inspiration comes from his mother’s cooking, and many of the dishes at snō incorporate those flavors he grew up on.
“My mother is the greatest cook I have ever met, and a very big reason that I decided to open my first restaurant in St. Louis was to bring some of her recipes to the people in a city and neighborhood that I love,” says Tony Nguyen. “I have fond memories of waking up to chicken stock simmering on the stove and my parents sourcing fresh chickens for farm eggs. Sustainability and support of our local farmers is a very large focus for us at snō, and that is exactly why our menu will change regularly, even daily, because I want to encourage our team to be creative with what we have from the farmers and purveyors that we have so carefully selected as partners.”
For the past eight years, Tony was the executive chef at Crustacean, a modern Asian restaurant in Beverly Hills, California. Throughout his career, Chef Tony interned at the James Beard House and staged at L’atelier de Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas; he worked at prestigious restaurants across the country, such as Kim Son in Houston under Chef Tri La, RM Seafood and RM Upstairs under Rick Moonen, the “Godfather of Sustainability,” and Bluestem, a James Beard award-winning restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri. Throughout his education and hands-on experience, Tony has perfected his approach to dishes made with Asian ingredients and European techniques, making his own signature cuisine which can be described as modern, inspired and tailored.
Chef Jessica Nguyen began her career in the hospitality industry nearly 20 years ago where she was a bartender for high-end restaurants and hotels. She learned mixology from world renowned mixologist, Tony Abou-Ganim, and it was then that she fell in love with craft and classic cocktails. Jessica went back to school for Culinary Arts at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California, knowing her true passion was in the heart of a restaurant: the kitchen. She bartended at AnQi during culinary school, which is where she met her now husband and business partner, Chef Tony. Chef Jessica has worked in several restaurants such as Pizzeria Mozza with Nancy Silverton, Michelin star Chef Jean-Georges Beverly Hills at the Waldorf Astoria, Bluegold, a restaurant focused on California coastal cuisine, which captured her love for seafood, and Chef Tin Vuongs Little Sister-LSXO, a speak-easy Vietnamese restaurant inside of Bluegold, where she learned the art of Vietnamese cuisine. Along with her experience as a chef, and now general manager and co-owner of snō, Jessica is also a marine biologist. She studied Marine Science with a focus on Ichthyology, the branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish, where she’s worked with hatcheries to learn more about seafood and has expanded her creativity in the kitchen, while also helping the planet. She fuses the world of culinary and marine science together and brings her expertise to the ethical and ecological sustainable seafood program at snō, alongside consulting with Bar Chef Justin Gobelman.
When guests enter snō’s 4,000 square-foot restaurant, they are met with an open lounge and bar to the right and a semi-private dining space to the left. At the 10-seat bar, guests can sit and enjoy modern dim sum or offerings from the a la carte dinner menu. The open concept bar also offers a look into the inner workings of the kitchen so guests will be able to watch the snō chef team prepare sashimi, salads, and cold items. Adorned with large black-and-white photos of Anthony Bourdain and famous quotes from the late chef, storyteller and writer, the semi-private dining space seats 44 people and will be used for large dinner parties, private events and, in the coming months, a multi-course chef’s tasting menu. The main dining room is located upstairs with seating for 80 guests in a fun and relaxed atmosphere, complete with an additional full bar and a lounge.
snō’s menu showcases Tony’s delicate and methodical approach to Asian cuisine, amped up with a lot of fun and magic. The dinner menu highlights Tony’s careful attention to quality ingredients, paired with Jessica’s expertise in using the most ethical and ecologically sourced sustainable seafood. Featuring both hot and cold items with prices ranging from an average of $9-$40 the a la carte menu is divided into sections such as Hot Dim Sum, Cold Dim Sum, Signature Starters, Raw, Salads, Noodles, Large Plates and Dessert.
Guests can enjoy Hot or Cold Dim Sum (3 pieces for $9) from the mobile Dim Sum Cart which will host a variety of rotating offerings including Oysters, House-made Focaccia, Caviar “bumps,” a perfectly sized tablespoon serving of caviar placed on the backside of the guest’s hand for eating, Shumai with free range chicken and truffle, “Crab Rangoon” Squash Blossoms, Shrimp Toast Mini Tacos and more.
“I also came back to St. Louis for my mom’s roll recipe, I knew that when I opened a restaurant, that would be the first thing on the menu,” continues Nguyen. “Simply named “snō’s Rolls,” they are filled with Kurobuta pork, rock shrimp, and jicama, and are one of my favorite dishes of all time. While many of our menu items will rotate out, there are signature items like the snō’s Rolls that will remain a staple forever.”
For dinner, Raw and Chilled dishes showcase Chef Tony’s playfully inspired cooking style like his Tuna Cigars, featuring Tombo Ahi Tuna in de Feuilles de Brick with avocado creme and tobiko caviar, served in a cigar box with smoke; Hand Rolls delivered in porcelain hands; White on White, a torched scallop with palm sugar fish sauce and yuzu kosho, that appears only after it has been lit on fire by the server; and Spanish Bluefin Tuna wrapped in cucumber Furikake crunch with chili olive oil emulsion. For Salads, try Tony’s popular Endive and Crab “Caesar,” the Kohlrabi and Papaya salad or an Ice Noodle Salad made with Tony’s signature hot sauce, ice cubes and pea shoots. Nguyen pays homage to his Vietnamese heritage with his Tortellini en Pho. Noodles, Rice and Vegetables offer a range from Carrot Bolognese over fresh wonton noodles to Ramen Cacio y Pepe and Kimchi Cauliflower Fried Rice with vegetables from the neighborhood Tower Grove Park Farmers Market. Large Plates can be shared or enjoyed alone with standout items such as: Lava Stone Steaks with green tea salt, onion rings, and potato puree; Tony’s signature “Fish and Chips,” made with slow-cooked black cod, whipped horseradish, dill, gribiche, and potato chip gremolata; Suckling Pig with twice cooked potatoes and ong choy; and Wild Isle Salmon with sushi rice risotto. Desserts are a nod to his hometown and heritage, featuring Tableside Frozen Custard, a Vietnamese Crème Caramel Flan served with the St. Louis staple of Gooey Butter Cake and Lime-Aid granita, and the ‘Is There Fish In the Dessert?,’ a brown sugar Budino with fish sauce caramel and fish sauce salt.
Snō’s cocktail menu offers seasonally inspired beverages along with signature items and theatrical presentation. The “Bubble Bath” is snō’s take on the classic gin and tonic with bubbles made from Pho spices (cassia, cinnamon, black pepper, star anise, juniper berries) and pho gin and tonic, served in a bubble bath glassware. Vietnamese coffee makes a special Vietnamese Espresso Martini, and the margarita is made with yuzu and mezcal.