Tammy Pham and Sam Chung proudly present ASPARAGUS, a unique Asian fusion restaurant and lounge. This masterpiece is rooted in the authenticity and business experience of this well-established and highly respected restaurant family from Vietnam. ASPARAGUS was declared the 2008 Restaurant of the Year by the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority, just 14 months after it opened its doors and has since been lauded Hungry Hound Steve Dolinsky and featured on the Steve Harvey show. The restaurant has regularly been awarded regional awards for its distinctive food and libations.
ASPARAGUS distinguishes itself by offering a rare opportunity to experience fine dining in a serene, elegant, Zen-like environment while savoring dishes freshly fashioned from the cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam and the Americas, all informed with classic French culinary artistry. Every item on the menu can be enjoyed with specially selected wines from Sam’s extensive wine collection or paired with one of the many signature drinks, such as the popular La Passion Martini or her Asparagus Mojito.
The serene eatery accommodates 250+ guests. The Lemon Grass Room can be a private dining room for parties and meetings with up to 70 guests. The intimate Waterfall Room is a 16-person private dining room adjacent to the sumptuously appointed lounge which sports a beautiful baby grand piano in the corner. A variety of world-class musicians provide live entertainment on the first and third Saturday nights of each month in the lounge from 6:30 until 10:30 pm.
The venue’s décor, like the menu, is an artful fusion of design elements embracing classical, modern, Asian, colonial and French influences. Michael Smith and Valerie Rietveld of Triad Design Associates in Griffith, Indiana worked on every element of the restaurant during its major refurbishment. Their intention was to ensure that each guest felt welcomed, and embraced by an environment that complemented the menu.
The visual invitation begins when you enter the front foyer, which has a wall of cross-cut bamboo of differing sizes and depths. The dining rooms’ color scheme echoes the colors of the asparagus, rich creamy yellows and greens, with hints of purple, augmented by brocade curtains, bamboo and dried grass. The lounge is richly appointed with ebony woods, sumptuous dark gold patterned wallpaper, imported light fixtures and art, with a show-stopping wall of a giant bamboo behind the bar. Throughout the restaurant diners are delighted by a rich assortment of unique Asian art acquired by the owners on their travels; a beautiful collection of paintings, sculptures, and antique artifacts.
The history of the highly successful and well-loved trio of restaurants, ASPARAGUS, Siam Marina I, and Siam Marina II, can only be appreciated when understood in the context of the individuals who created and oversee these venues.
Now a married couple with one son, Saffion, Tammy and Sam each arrived in Chicago at different times from Vietnam in their early teens. Sam came with his mother and siblings in 1979. Tammy arrived by herself in 1985, a refugee sponsored by Red Cross. Once she arrived she worked hard to finish her degree in Electrical Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology while also working full time at the Star of Siam in the River North district of Chicago to support herself and her family back in Vietnam. After graduating, Tammy took a job at Sony where she first met Sam, who was managing the department in which she worked. Sam also earned a degree in Electrical Engineering, acquired a few years earlier from University of Illinois Chicago Circle.
Tammy soon discovered she was too confined in the corporate world at Sony. Her creativity and passion insisted that she find a more satisfying outlet. Just about that time, a former co-worker at Star of Siam contacted her. He had opened a little Thai restaurant in a strip mall in Calumet City. He wanted to go back to Thailand and wondered if she’d like to purchase the restaurant so he could go home. They struck up a deal where she could learn the menu, wait on tables, and slowly earn the money to purchase the restaurant while working for him. In 1995, just a short year later, she earned enough money to purchase the restaurant, and, more importantly, her native talents as a chef blossomed allowing her to significantly enhance the recipes she inherited. The restaurant’s popularity was also boosted by Tammy’s considerable artistic gifts which transformed the linoleum-topped take-out storefront into a lovely, intimate, space where customers fell in love with the chef, the food and the surroundings, and kept coming back until the doors were closed in 2009.
By the time 1998 came around, Tammy and Sam had been dating for some time. They became engaged and soon thereafter, they opened Siam Marina II in River Oaks Mall. It too became a local favorite, developing a loyal and growing customer base who keep coming back year after year for the flavorsome and attractive menu in the lovely, welcoming environment. Siam II went dark in 2013 when the mall advised that the building would be torn down because the 8-story, mostly vacant office structure was no longer economically viable.
In 2014, Tammy and Sam re-opened Siam Marina in its new home at 16846 Oak Park Avenue, Tinley Park, Illinois. This signature site has already garnered rave reviews for its fresh, sophisticated, contemporarily elegant environment and its ever popular menu.
Family values of loyalty, dedication, commitment to serve you to the best of their ability, and taking pride in creating a memorable, quality product are all hallmarks of Tammy and Sam’s history as restaurateurs.
ASPARAGUS accommodates over 250 guests. Private parties and meetings may be hosted in the Lemon Grass Room, which holds up to 70 guests, and in the 16-person Waterfall Room. For more information, please visit the Parties section of the website.