The Seventh Dimension

Mai Village boasts the best part of Vietnam's food, art, and architecture, and its long meals with family

To tell you the truth, I couldn't wait to talk to him on the phone for this story. Sadly, by the time I called he and his wife had just left for Vietnam for three weeks to buy furniture for the coming patio, so I spoke to his son, Ban Nguyen, the chef. Nguyen told me that his father's dream was to recreate his experience of Hue, the Vietnamese city that was once the seat of academic and artistic life, for his children. Which is when Ban Nguyen provided me with an insight I never would have gotten otherwise.

I mean, when I asked Ban Nguyen how many grandkids his parents had, he wasn't comfortable counting them without a sister to double-check with. More than a dozen? Definitely. And out of that number, how many had seen Vietnam? None. And none of the kids had, either. At that moment it came clear to me, the importance of Mai Village.

Mai Village is more than a restaurant. It's the living experience of the best part of growing up in Hue 50 years ago. The best part of the food, the art, the architecture, the long meals with family feasting on recipes handed down over generations. It's memory, history, and culture passed down in the most vivid way possible, as an experience. Not just three-dimensional, though it is that, in burnished wood and delicate silks, but four-dimensional, with the scent of roasty onions that waft up from a bowl of meatball soup, and five-dimensional, with the taste of a gently steamed fish tucked into a lettuce wrap. Six-dimensional, allowing you to build your own new memories within it over time, to raise your own kids in the best part of those memories. And seven-dimensional, I say, at least seven-dimensional, as it creates a whole new world never before seen: Vietnam joyfully in Minnesota.

A homecoming of sorts: St. Paul's Mai Village
Kathy Easthagen
A homecoming of sorts: St. Paul's Mai Village

Location Info

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Mai Village

394 W. University Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55103

Category: Restaurant > Vietnamese

Region: Como

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That this wonder is probably more meant for grandkids, and great-grandkids yet unborn, doesn't trouble me at all. That's one of the amazing things about living in this society. People pour their love and heart and work into things, things like paths around the lakes or the Como Park Conservatory or Mai Village, and every one of us gets to share in the gift.

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