Meet Quyen Phan, owner of Anchovies & Salt in Renton.
Quyen has lived in the Seattle area for 31 years. He got into the restaurant industry in 2012 with a small deli shop in Renton. Before that, he was in construction which served him well in designing Anchovies & Salt into the breath-taking space it is today.
Anchovies & Salt creates a unique Vietnamese dining experience by crafting nostalgia-driven dishes that bring back the most memorable flavors of Vietnam. They are committed to using high-quality, fresh local ingredients to recreate the authentic tastes that transport their guests to the heart of Vietnam.
Learn more about Quyen and Anchovies & Salt in this week’s Small Business Spotlight Q&A!
What was the idea behind Anchovies & Salt and how did you decide on this space?
I always felt like there was a need. Every time we open a business, we are trying to – not necessarily solve a problem – but to offer more, or feel like we have something to offer the community. We always thought about giving the community some really authentic Vietnamese food. I hate to use the word “authentic” because it gets thrown around, and it gets convoluted. The perception of authentic is different based on where you’re from, if you were born in Vietnam, if you were born in the US, if you had a chance to travel Vietnam, and be able to see what modern Vietnamese food looks like, and what traditional Vietnamese food looks like.
We wanted to create not just good Vietnamese food from each region, but also make it an experience. Someplace special. We want to take you to Vietnam, without having to take you to Vietnam.
I knew of this space already, and learned they were closing, and I knew I wanted it. so right away I came up with a business plan, and I had to compete with many other concepts for the space, and make it something that would complement the Hyatt hotel next door. It took a while, but after a year or so of negotiations I was finally able to get this lease in December 2022. We had a soft opening in November 2023, and officially opened January 1st 2024.
The artwork in here is beautiful, can you tell us about the bridge mural?
So I call this the Anchovy Bridge. We modeled it after the Golden Bridge in Bà Nà Hills, also known as the Hand Of God Bridge. God is uplifting a baby anchovy, using an anchovy just to bridge culture a little bit. Even with something this small, there is so much similarity in culture through food and humble ingredients. Anchovies in Italian culture or English culture with Worcestershire Sauce. Anchovies and salt are the base ingredients in fish sauce, which is the name of our restaurant.
The Anchovies & Salt sauce bar has over 10 different types of fish sauce, anchovy paste, shrimp paste from the North and South, all the garnishes and sauces that just make a complete Vietnamese dining experience. It’s not always one-size-fits-all type of sauce. So I really wanted to highlight that, and that’s why the sauce bar is at the center of the restaurant.
What’s your business philosophy?
Put your best foot forward. That’s kind of my mindset when I build businesses. If I cook with all-natural grass-fed beef, whether its true or not, I think its going to be healthier for you. And if my mind is telling me, “hey, all this food filled with hormones and steroids is not good for you,” then i just can’t find it in myself to have that be the core of my business model. And I won’t judge if someone else cooks with conventional beef, because it’s still a business, and we all gotta eat and we all gotta live. But if I can, I will cook with better, healthier ingredients.
Do I pay $1.50 for sriracha or do I pay $2 to support a local friend? My philosophy was always to support the friend. So we use local as much as possible. Psychologically, mentally, and consciously, I want to be able to answer to myself, that I did my best to not compromise. And we have to live with compromises, and who’s to say who is doing it the right way? It’s just that subconsciously, you have to live with yourself. That’s how I would like my kids to live, just put your best foot forward.
Tell us about the layout of the space. You have different regions of Vietnam represented, is that correct?
The center of the restaurant is Central Vietnam, to the South is Saigon. The Saigon Room represents the biggest city in South Vietnam. The bar here is the Da Nang Bar, its a coastal beach town about 30 minutes from Bà Nà Hills Hills (where the Hand Of God Bridge is), and about 30 minutes from Hôi An.
Hôi An is an ancient city in Central Vietnam that’s UNESCO protected. It is one of the most beautiful things on earth, I believe. The whole town will look like this at night. We tried to do our best, but this is barely symbolic enough of what is truly Hôi An and how beautiful it looks. This room is at the center of the restaurant and we want to put a lot of thought into what we use it for. We might have tasting events, Valentine’s Day, just little subtleties to amplify this space and hopefully launch all of that soon.
The North end of the restaurant is North Vietnam. The Hanoi Room – Hanoi is the capitol city and one of the biggest cities in Vietnam. We put photos of things that are symbolic, like Turtle Lake, the railroad tracks, things that you will find during your travels that are at the heart of Vietnam.
Our banquet room is Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay is widely considered the 8th wonder of the world. Over 1,600 islands in the bay, and its just beautiful and tranquil. We definitely recommend people travel there, of course, but we wanted to highlight its beauty. This painting is painted by my uncle, who is retired business man and lifelong artist, so it was nice to give him a platform. The other wall has 4 LED screen TVS that allow you to connect together for memory lane or corporate presentations – whatever the use might be.
The fourth room is the Sa Pa Room. It’s still an office at the moment but its meant to connect to the Hanoi room. We can open up the shudders so we can have a semi-private space for private events.
Why is it important to you and your business that people #SpendLikeItMatters?
When I go out to eat, my mindset in general is that everything we do should be intentional. And whether or not we have different faith, different beliefs, you want to spend and act with good energy.
What’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?
I also own Vinason Pho (South Lake Union, SoDo, Kent, Kirkland, Sammamish). At first, it was really hard to get a landlord to take a chance on Vinason. We finally found a Turkish landlord who believed in us. Now, 8 years later we are getting asked to come and open a Vinason in their space. We have 5 locations now.