Last week, the lifestyle magazine Esquire recognized Moon Rabbit, an innovative modern Vietnamese restaurant, as one of the 40 Best New Restaurants in America in 2021. Located in the heart of The Wharf in Washington D.C., Moon Rabbit is star chef Kevin Tien’s love letter to Vietnam.
Founded during the pandemic in 2020, Moon Rabbit offers contemporary Vietnamese cuisine that evokes memory, honors history, and spotlights Tien’s unique takes on regional Vietnamese dishes. The restaurant gets its name from the mythological character, Moon Rabbit, often celebrated in Vietnam’s mid-autumn festivals. According to popular Vietnamese legends, the Moon Rabbit accompanies the Moon Lady and Cuội — a man who sits under a magical banyan tree, in eternity on the Moon. Having opened its doors in fall 2020, the restaurant is a nod to the legendary creature that embodies mid-autumn culture in Vietnam and brings joy to Vietnamese people all over the world.
As a first-generation Asian-American chef, Kevin Tien celebrates his Vietnamese heritage through the innovative menu at Moon Rabbit. Partnering with the InterContinental Hotel at the Wharf, Tien creates dishes that tell his personal stories and showcase his connection to Vietnamese culture. Esquire’s favorite dish at Moon Rabbit is the fish sandwich — a catfish fillet elegantly scented with turmeric and lemongrass and gently hugged by curry milk-bread buns.
“When Covid started, I started cooking more Vietnamese food to reconnect with my family and background — recipes my mom and grandma taught me,” Tien said in an interview with Washingtonian.
At Moon Rabbit, Vietnamese food is more than just pho and rice bowls, but rather a diversity of flavors inspired by Tien’s family recipes. With the recent recognition by Esquire, Moon Rabbit not only represents the rising national popularity of contemporary Vietnamese food, but also conveys a personal exploration of Vietnamese identity through food.