Phat Eatery Owner & Former SING Chef Join Forces On Katy Banh Mi Shop
In what’s likely to be hailed as a welcome return to the restaurant scene, Cuc Lam, formerly of SING in The Heights is about to helm a new restaurant. Phat Eatery owner Alex Auyeung has hired her to run Yelo, a forthcoming restaurant in Katy Asian Town Center offering creative bánh mì made with quality ingredients. Yelo will be next door to the recently expanded Phat Eatery at 23119 Colonial Pkwy, Suite B-3.
After enlarging Phat Eatery’s footprint and adding several additional seats and tables, Auyeung still ended up with 1,500 square feet of unused space — enough for a small restaurant. He says he was chatting with fellow restaurateur and Katy resident Thomas Nguyen, who co-owns Peli Peli Kitchen and four Peli Peli restaurants around town when the bánh mì shop idea came up.
“I knew I wanted to open a bánh mì shop, but I needed to hire an executive chef to run it,” says Au-Yeung. “The only person I would consider is Cuc Lam. If she wouldn’t do it, I wouldn’t do it,” he said via press release.
Lam, who operates a pop-up dinner business called Just Cuc It, at first declined the opportunity, then realized it was the right move for her career. “[Alex and I] have a mutual respect for each other as chefs and operate on the same philosophy. The reason we’re in this business is we love to serve people and make people happy. A smile and a ‘thank you’ are why I’ve always done it, and I know Alex feels the same way,” she said.
Traditional bánh mì, including lemongrass beef (or tofu), pork, chicken, meatball and a cold cut combo, will have places on the menu. What Lam and Auyeung are really excited about, though, are the specialty sandwiches that include special touches, such as housemade pickles and marinated meats. One example is Pho-rench Dip, served with a side of pho broth and filled with pho ingredients. Other fun riffs are inspired by additional South Asian cuisines, including Beef Rendang Bánh Mì (based on what’s arguably Phat Eatery’s most beloved signature dish) and Chinese Barbecue Bánh Mì.
There are dishes to choose from besides Vietnamese sandwiches. YELO is also offering vermicelli bowls, Vietnamese egg rolls, spring rolls and shrimp chips, as well as a specialty coffee program featuring café sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee), egg coffee and yogurt coffee.
In case you were wondering what inspired the name, it is indeed the color yellow, which is considered lucky in some South Asian cultures. “The color yellow inspires, uplifts, illuminates and offers hope, happiness, cheerfulness and fun,” said Lam. “That’s our mission at YELO. Through recipes from countries like Vietnam, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand, we want to share the delicious and bold flavors that we love on a simple baguette.” The name is also a subtle recognition of a stereotype that Asians are perceived to be cheap and eschew quality. That barrier is one that Auyeung and Lam intend to continue breaking down by providing great service, an enjoyable atmosphere, and, of course, delicious, well-made dishes.
The space is still in the design process, but the vision is for a polished, retro diner look with natural wood accents and, of course, the prominent use of yellow. Expect low, sushi bar-style counter seats with café tables and booths, as well as a coffee bar. One highlight, though, is a big, open kitchen. “Consulting a lot with food halls, and having worked in that environment, I’ve seen the benefits of seating that allows staff to interact with customers and vice versa,” says Lam, who recently worked at both The Blind Goat and Atlas Diner in Bravery Chef Hall. “I also think guests are interested in seeing what’s going on behind the scenes.”
Once open, YELO will be open for lunch and dinner daily and accepting takeout orders.
Disclosure: Phat Eatery is a current Houston Food Finder sponsor.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.