Hear Ye! Hear Ye! As many Town Criers from across Ontario ring their bells in celebration, Nine North was conceived in Downtown Brantford.
Traditional Asian dishes are a delight for North Americans and Brantford now has one of the finest, Nine North, right next to the Sanderson Centre for The Performing Arts, at 86 Dalhousie Street.
The name, Nine North is significant because it is the geographical longitude of the birthplace in Vietnam of the owner/chef, Tam Nguyen. Tam and his wife, Rath opened the restaurant a couple of months ago and are already one of the trendy new destinations for a quality dining and incredibly cost-efficient experience.
I chatted with Rath, recently, and her story is both compelling and inspirational. The short version is that her family is from Cambodia. She and Tam met when they were both working for the Brantford Charity Casino and realized when they got married that they had a common vision.
The back story is profound. Rath’s parents escaped the horrors of the killing fields during the Khmer Rouge purge of millions of innocent people after the Vietnam war.
Struggling on foot, shoe-less, for days and days, sleeping on back streets with four children, they were fortunate to avoid the roaming thugs and Pol Pot supporters. They had no choice except to escape to Thailand as refugees, to raise their children in safety. Rath was born in a Thai refugee camp and emigrated with her family through the United States to Canada.
They applied to the Pierre Trudeau government for immigration to Canada and originally settled in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Rath’s parents worked as labourers until they could afford to move to Hamilton where there was full-time work available. Currently Rath’s Mom, in addition to helping out at Nine North, works for a garden nursery.
Both Tam and Rath pride themselves on maintaining traditional flavours and popular dishes from Vietnam. Tam spent a year with a renowned Vietnamese Chef to earn his credentials, learn the art of South East Asian food preparation and how to set up a restaurant that would give Brantfordians a high-end family alternative.
Part of the plan was to offer Sanderson theatre goers appetizers and samples as an after-theatre event in a 75-seat dining room: all at an incredibly inexpensive menu with no item exceeding $15.
The menu also includes Thai favourites as well, to balance the styles and flavours of both countries.
Rath sees herself as the ambassador to her cultural cuisine. She takes personal interest in every diner that crosses her threshold and thinks of them as a new friend. Her Mom helps on occasion and between them diners get a glimpse of their welcoming personalities.
Rath has a degree in Interior Design and it is reflected in the subtle décor of Nine North. She wanted to bring the feeling of the outdoors into the restaurant while creating a comfortable yet stylish seating arrangement. She chose birch tree branches along one entire wall, with hidden lighting in contrast to the gold fixtures softly illuminating black furnishing.
The cultural experience also comes from Canadian resident staff representing South East Asian heritage both as servers and sous chefs to Tam.
Not adverse to hard work, both Tam and Rath work seven days a week and their two BCI high school children support where they can.
Nine North is already a ‘One Card’ partner with Laurier University to allow Brantford students access to Viet/Thai food through their meal plan. As well, Nine North is a contributor to the success of local not-for-profit ventures like the Mighty Oaks Global Initiative in Brantford that has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to needy children in Thailand for education.
They are awaiting both a liquor license and the opportunity to introduce you to their personalities in culture and cuisine. When Brantford City Hall opens in the former Federal Building on Dalhousie and the Laurier/YMCA on Colborne St, Nine North invites you to be considerably impressed with a young couple’s entrepreneurial investment in the growth of Brantford and Brant.
Welcome to Brantford, Rath (left) and Tam Nguyen.