Cyclo, a bright Vietnamese spot (www.cycloaz.com, 1919 W. Chandler Blvd, 480- 963-4490) in Chandler, delivers food with a fiery punch. This should come as no surprise, since the bistro's owner, Justina Duong, is one fiery number herself. Known for her sharp wit, killer fashion sense and eye for design, she's dishing up a modern take on traditional Southeast Asian fare. Named after the three-wheeled pedicabs found in Viet Nam, Cyclo's food is a take on favorites you might find elsewhere -- but here they're turned up a notch. Duong serves tamarind glazed ribs, black pepper shrimp on sliced baguette, and jasmine tea crème brulee, in addition to classics like pho and mango sticky rice. Packed for lunch and dinner Tuesday thru Saturday, Justina's fans, and fans of her food, are lined up and ready for some piquant global cuisine, served with a side of sass.
Chow Bella: How long has Cyclo been here? Justina Duong: Seven years, if you can believe it. We remodeled last July to change things up.
CB: How do you pronounce it, is it See-klo? JD: No, actually it's pronounced Sick-lo.
CB: (laughter) I've been pronouncing it incorrectly for seven years, then. JD: It's okay, I forgive you. (laughter)
CB: You're in downtown Phoenix a lot, do you ever think about moving Cyclo? JD: It was actually supposed to be in downtown, in Heritage Square. Do you know where Ruby Beet used to be? It's now a bar, the Rose and Crown. We were going to open there, right across from Pizzeria Bianco. But we couldn't do it since it was a historic building and we couldn't do a complete kitchen remodel. We thought we'd just wait for the right location and eventually be downtown. But you know what? I love it here. Ninety percent of my customers are regulars, and I love them. They let me get away with murder.
CB: People love to come see your outfits. You work the front of house like a runway! JD: (laughter) I'm obsessed with shopping. I love to shop, everything from vintage to couture and I wear it all.
CB: Like stilettos, and other impossibly high heels. Whose shoes are you wearing right now? JD: These are Marni.
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CB: Is it hard to wear heels all day? JD: I invest in good shoes. I'll try them on for half an hour at the store and walk all around in them before I buy them.
CB: Did you come up with all of the recipes? JD: They are my mother's recipes, and I tweaked them. So did my best friend who is the cook and runs the kitchen. We're best friends, and we've been best friends since we were babies. He's helped me out a lot. I don't think I could be comfortable without him in the kitchen.
CB: Is it hard to work with your best friend? JD: We're family. He got married two weeks ago and we closed the restaurant so we could all go.
CB: What is your favorite thing on the menu? JD: Beef noodle soup. I could eat that every day.