architects and food bloggers- The Viet Club – the HA sisters


In the fall of 2003, Hong and I were lamenting about the lack of young Vietnamese creatives in New York City. There had to be some movers and shakers in NYC, some dreamers, visionaries and future superstars. Why did everything seem to happen in California? In a flurry of e-stalking, calling old college friends, contacting long lost cousins, and basically approaching anyone and everyone who could help, we have begun to discover that YES, they are out there. And they are doing amazing things. We are dedicated to finding them all here in our hometown, on our turf, New York City.

I am the oldest sister, with Hong a scant year behind me, in a family of 4 siblings. Both our younger siblings are at Princeton. Sieu, our ‘number one son’ brother is working on his Phd while Thu is discovering the joys of undergraduate life. Our parents live in New Jersey and so we are home often for mom’s delicious cooking. Our family is very tight knit and close, Hong and I talk almost everyday.

Thu calls us “SAME”, said in a deadpan voice. And it’s true Hong and I love many of the same things. We love our coffee black, our bacon crisp, non-soggy french fries in the afternoon, Lucky Strike Lights all the time, cheesy chick flicks, Bon Jovi and Emmylou Harris. We also adore our family – the Haduongs in Paris and California, the Huynhs in Montreal and Vietnam.

I never dreamed there would be so many young Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American creatives in New York City. After years of feeling like we were the only ones interested in anything remotely contemporary and well designed, it’s been refreshing to learn that we are not the only ones. We’re not looking for new friends or soulmates and we’re not interested in every single thing that is “Vietnamese”. We just want to know what’s going on with you, eager to see who’s where doing what.

the HA sisters,
Yen & Hong

Meet & Eat: Yen & Michi

Yen and MichiYen and Michi’s blog, Lunch, is exactly what it sounds like: a blog about lunch, updated daily with a photo of what they had for lunch and a 4 p.m. snack. A virtual peephole into Yen and Michi’s day, Lunch inspires me to take the time for lunch. We get to know Yen and Michi in this week’s Meet & Eat.

Name: Yen Ha and Michi Yanagishita
Location: New York City
Occupation: Architects at Front Studio

What prompted you to start your blog, Lunch?
We’ve always eaten lunch the way we do (which is to say everywhere and everything) and we’ve always had this slight obsession with cataloging, so it seemed normal to combine the two compulsions in a blog. Architecture tends to be a rather serious profession, so we wanted to create a light and amusing distraction.

What’s the most surprising thing to come out of your blogging?
We’ve been pleasantly surprised to be making friends through Lunch. Using the blog as a pretext, we’ve been writing old friends, acquaintances, and sometimes strangers, inviting them to share a meal. We’re seldom opposed to meeting new people or trying a new place for lunch, which makes for some fun meals.

What do your family and friends think of your food obsessions?
Interesting question, because we don’t necessarily think of ourselves as obsessed by food—any one of our friends would instantly agree to hop in a car with us for the six-hour drive to Pittsburgh to have the french toast brunch at Deluca’s in the Strip District. Maybe it’s because we’ve (subconsciously or consciously) surrounded ourselves with other food lovers it just seems normal to always be talking about where and what to eat next.

When did you first realize you were a serious eater?
Michi: Probably when I started skipping high school classes to go try our new restaurants.
Yen: Probably when I met Michi.

Favorite comfort food?
Young chow fried rice for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, or dinner. Perfect anytime!

Guilty pleasures?
We don’t really subscribe to feeling guilty over food. If it’s good, we want to enjoy it for what it is. No guilt!

What food won’t you eat?
Cats and dogs. The whole idea of extreme eating doesn’t really hold any fascination for us, either.

What’s an unexplored food you’d like to try?
We wouldn’t know what they are since the answer is pretty much anything we haven’t heard of! Although lately we’ve been dreaming about a trip to Singapore for the food hawker stands as described by Calvin Trillin in the food issue of the New Yorker.

Favorite food person?
We like to read Jeffrey Steingarten for his obsessiveness, the former R. W. Apple for his passion, and Harold McGee for his food nerdiness.

Favorite food sites or blogs?
Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen is a total crack-me-up for her no-holds-barred casual food writing. Delicious Days for the delicate photos and beautifully designed website. Pioneer Woman Cooks for the ridiculously detailed step-by-step photos.

Describe your perfect meal.
It starts in the morning, when Jeffrey Steingarten picks us up for some green market shopping; later that afternoon, Thomas Keller comes over to help cook everything; and, finally, early evening Clive Owen shows up to have dinner with us. Aaahhhh…

Yen Ha, RA
Michi Yanagishita, RA

Yen and Michi studied at Carnegie Mellon University together where they met one fine autumn day strolling through Schenley Park. Over the years the two have shared a particular passion for architecture, design and food. As principals of Front Studio, Yen and Michi head one of the youngest Asian female owned architectural practices in New York City.

Yen has been working since the completion of her studies at bringing thoughtful design into public awareness.  She pursues beauty and meaning in her design work, integrating formal studies with humanistic insight.  As a registered New York State architect, Yen uses an innate sensitivity towards a person’s individual experience of space with a thorough comprehension of materials and methods to construct spaces both elegant and engaging.

Michi’s natural curiosity and love of adventure informs her design, articulated in visually appealing work. She balances a temperate sensibility with an enthusiasm for the built environment that produces perfectly moderated spaces. Michi, a New York State registered architect, enjoys a reputation among her clients for her clear communication skills and ability to clarify the complexities of the design process.

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