Hennepin Avenue is about to get Wondrous

Thom Pham will close down Uptown’s Azia Aug. 8 and open his new Wondrous Azian Kitchen downtown.

Tony Libera

Thom PhamâÄôs Wondrous Azian Kitchen WHERE: 533 Hennepin Ave. S The news of the impending closure of UptownâÄôs Azia restaurant may come as a shock to fans of the Eat Street staple, but owner Thom Pham has provided a silver lining. On Aug. 11, heâÄôll open his new restaurant, Thom PhamâÄôs Wondrous Azian Kitchen, downtown. Pham cites AziaâÄôs physical condition as the reason for its closing. The building is not up to code, making it impossible for the restaurant to continue, so Pham began looking elsewhere. Setting up shop in this particular downtown spot is a bold move, considering its history and PhamâÄôs previous troubles in the area. The space has seen its fair share of restaurants come and go, while PhamâÄôs last tangle with downtown, Temple , ended after just a year and a half. In spite of this, Pham is confident in his decision to open Wondrous. âÄúI think the timing is perfect, because Target Field has come in, and thereâÄôs a theater coming up across the street,âÄù Pham said. âÄúWhere the Azia location was, there were seven different restaurants that had come and gone from 1997 to the day we took over, and we were there for eight years.âÄù Pham believes the key is accessibility, not only in the physical location, but also in the menu. The restaurant is certainly in a better spot than Temple was, looking out over Hennepin and Block E, and the prices are more varied than PhamâÄôs other eateries. âÄúWhen we put the menu together, I was thinking of a large group of people,âÄù Pham said. âÄúWith a space like this, we want everyone to be able to come in here and be comfortable, whether youâÄôre in jeans and a shirt or youâÄôre in a suit after work, we want you to fit in. The price is kind of like that as well.âÄù Though the dishes will be centered on PhamâÄôs Asian fusion philosophy, he stresses that Wondrous will be different than Azia. HeâÄôll be twisting his idea to take into account the history of the area, with more classic dishes like Asian barbeque ribs and roast duck saddled next to steak and contemporary seafood dishes. The name itself, Wondrous, calls back to a drink from the Nankin Café , which first opened its doors in Minneapolis in 1919 . âÄúI want to bring that legacy back to life,âÄù Pham said. AziaâÄôs fate is still up in the air, with Pham considering a new location and potentially a new concept. For now, he hopes people will try Wondrous, claiming an experience that is unique while still paying respect to the cityâÄôs Asian roots. âÄúI believe in this concept; itâÄôs different than anything else in Minneapolis,âÄù Pham said. âÄúThe energy is going to be amazing.âÄù