Gem Dining, located in Orange County’s Fountain Valley, is a Progressive Southeast Asian restaurant by Chef Viet Nguyen. As an immigrant from Vietnam w/ a penchant for the culinary arts, Chef Nguyen has always wanted to bring to Orange County a dining experience that showcases an elevated and progressive version of Southeast Asian cuisine.
Viet was born in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and immigrated to the United States when he was 16. He spent most of my life in love with restaurants – there was just something about the organized chaos of how restaurants operated that fascinated him. Early in his career, he moonlighted in kitchens, working nearly every position a restaurant offers, from a dishwasher and busboy to a bartender, line cook, and prep cook. Eventually, he installed point-of-sale tech at Gordon Ramsay’s now-closed Fat Cow in Los Angeles and picked up occasional shifts in the kitchen.
In 2014, he opened his first restaurant Sup Noodle Bar in Buena Park; in 2017, SUP’s second location opened in Cerritos, and soon followed The Vox Kitchen in Fountain Valley. Subsequently, Viet founded Kei Concepts, a restaurant management group that was created to help operate all of the current and upcoming concepts, setting in motion the creation of Gem Dining, NEP Cafe, ROL Hand Roll Bar, KIN Craft Ramen, and most recently, INI Ristorante.
“The juxtaposition of old and new that characterizes Saigon's urban fabric informs the eclectic style of Gem. Brought to life by chef Viet Nguyen’s vivid stories and his heartfelt fondness for the chaotic beauty found there, the lush and layered streetscape of this old city provided a rich resource for inspiration. The material palette plays warm and natural materials like hickory, amber glass and corten against the industrial influence of board-formed concrete and expanded metal mesh and steel. Cables and cable-mounted lighting criss-cross the space above the dining room, bringing to mind the discord of urban streets. Multiple layers of light add drama and depth to the room by making important features pop and by emphasizing the highly textured surfaces throughout. Bold, angular lines are softened by unexpected moments of greenery in the form of plant shelves mounted on high to create a verdant perimeter and terrarium-inspired encased plantings. The focal point of the space is an angular black steel structure that frames out the bar, the shape and scale of which alludes to the eclectic patchwork of buildings on display in crowded cities across Southeast Asia. From behind the bar, a jewel-like lighting installation of back-lit amber glass fills the space with a warm and welcoming glow.”
- STUDIO UNLTD