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Bonito Kitchen Wins Hearts and Tummies in Puerto Vallarta

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Esta publicación también está disponible en: Español

[This article originally appeared in our summer print issue in a section on select winners and finalists in the We Are PV Awards. You can view the PDF of our summer print issue here.]

Francie Nguyen’s eyes sparkle with a mix of gratitude and excitement. Her restaurant, Bonito Kitchen, has been named the winner for “Favorite Specialty Cuisine” in the We Are PV Awards. It’s a recognition not just of her delicious food, but of the unique journey that brought her to Puerto Vallarta and the vibrant Asian flavors she’s woven into the city’s culinary tapestry.

“Honestly, it’s incredibly humbling,” Nguyen shares. “Being nominated for representing Vietnamese cuisine, my heritage, is a huge honor. We put a lot of heart into showcasing the diverse flavors of Asia here in Mexico.”

Bonito Kitchen

Nguyen’s path to becoming a restaurateur wasn’t a conventional one. Seeking a change from the fast-paced life of New York City, she found herself in Mexico City, working in the fashion industry. Yet, something was missing – the comforting flavors of her childhood. A trip to Puerto Vallarta, with its undeniable charm, sparked a new dream. Missing Asian cuisine in her adopted city, Nguyen decided to take a leap of faith and open Bonito Kitchen, her first foray into the restaurant world. Though lacking formal culinary training, her passion for cooking stemmed from her exceptional mother, who instilled in her the art of crafting layered flavor profiles.

Bonito Kitchen

The first Bonito Kitchen opened its doors in Gaviotas seven years ago, offering a taste of Southeast Asia to Puerto Vallarta. The success led to a second location by the Rio Cuale four years later. Unfortunately, a hurricane forced its closure, demonstrating the resilience Nguyen would need to navigate the restaurant industry. Two years ago, a new Bonito Kitchen rose in Zona Romántica, welcoming diners with its warmth and delicious food. More recently, Casita & Garden joined the family, showcasing not just Nguyen’s culinary expertise but also her love for gardening, reflected in the restaurant’s beautiful ambience.

In a field often dominated by men, Nguyen acknowledges the challenges, particularly when it comes to sourcing authentic Southeast Asian ingredients in Mexico. Yet, she remains undeterred. “Race or gender doesn’t set limitations,” she declares with a smile. “It’s about passion and dedication.”

So, what is it that keeps Bonito Kitchen at the forefront of Puerto Vallarta’s culinary scene? Nguyen believes it’s a combination of factors – the use of high-quality ingredients, a commitment to innovation with constantly evolving dishes, and the creation of beautiful, welcoming spaces. “Each restaurant reflects my love for gardening,” she adds, “and I want people to feel special when they dine with us.”

Bonito Kitchen

Nguyen’s hands-on approach is another key ingredient in Bonito Kitchen’s success. “Our menu is unique,” she explains. “It’s important for me to train both the front and back of house on the dishes – how they’re prepared, why certain ingredients are used, how the dish should taste and look. I need to constantly monitor things to ensure everyone adheres to the expectations.”

But Nguyen isn’t satisfied with just maintaining the success of Bonito Kitchen. This ever-evolving entrepreneur is constantly on the move. Recently, she opened a Café & Brunch spot in Versalles with a friend, offering a delightful fusion of Mexican and international flavors alongside robust coffee. Additionally, nestled within Casita & Garden is the new Izakaya Sake Bar, a haven for those seeking traditional Japanese fare paired with an exquisite sake menu.

One thing’s for sure – under Nguyen’s leadership, Bonito Kitchen and its sister ventures promise a delicious and ever-evolving culinary adventure in Puerto Vallarta. Stay tuned, because as Nguyen says with a twinkle in her eye, “there’s more to come!”

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