GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A personal chef is getting ready to bring the Vietnamese dining experience to downtown Grand Rapids.

Phong Nguyen plans to open Monsoon in May. The restaurant will be located at 55 Monroe Center NW, between Ionia and Division avenues. The space was previously home to Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine, which closed in June 2021.

“I just feel the lack of variety of Asian cuisine in downtown Grand Rapids,” Nguyen told News 8. “There’s only one to-go food place in the downtown market for Vietnamese food… It’s still needed.”

Contractors are already a couple weeks into renovations. The smell of freshly cut wood filled the space Thursday and sawdust covered the floors.

Nguyen said Monsoon will pay homage to Vietnam with conical hats, traditional rattan and wood finishes, paintings and light shades from the country. A architectural firm from Vietnam came up with the interior design.

Even Monsoon’s logo is designed to reflect Vietnam.

The restaurant will feature an open kitchen and small bar, which will serve up cocktails, draft beer and wines as soon as Monsoon has its liquor license.

The menu will include spring rolls, pho, wagyu beef, tomahawk pork chops, duck, salmon and other Vietnamese dishes cooked on a charcoal grill. Nguyen says using charcoal is expensive but necessary to get an authentic taste of his native country.

“We want to focus on our dishes that bring the depth of flavor of Vietnam,” he said.

Nguyen came to America in 2012 after he says he picked Grand Valley State University out of a book as a place to study. He learned English at GVSU, got an associate’s degree in culinary arts at Grand Rapids Community College and a bachelor’s degree at Ferris State University. Until now, he has worked as a personal chef.

Nguyen says Monsoon will center on dine-in service while still offering takeout options. Monsoon will accommodate about 45 guests inside and another 20 outside on a streetside patio.