Noko Nashville announced that it will open its doors at 701 Porter Road in East Nashville, Tennessee March 3, 2023. Influenced by Owner Jon Murray, Executive Chef/Partner Dung “Junior” Vo, and Managing Partner Wilson Brannock’s collective love of Asian cuisine and travel, Noko is an Asian-inspired wood-fired restaurant influenced by wanderlust and simplicity of the Tennessee region. While perfecting the balance of new and old techniques in wood fire cooking, Noko hopes to also be an agent of change within the hospitality industry with a strong focus on mental and an employee betterment program.
“For years, the restaurant industry has focused on the importance of sustainability of our food and farms but somewhere along the way, we forgot to do the same for ourselves,” says Co-Owner Jon Murray. “It’s no coincidence that people left our industry in droves. At Noko, our goal is to care for our people at the deepest level even if it that comes at the cost of profit, awards, and accolades. We are in the pursuit of creating a sustainable work environment that will reinvigorate the realization that an amazing life can be created by working in restaurants.”
Executive Chef/Partner Dung “Junior” Vo puts his Asian-influenced spins on familiar proteins and indigenous vegetables through smoking, searing, and roasting over the live-fire grill. The resulting cuisine features classic comfort food dishes with an elevated, wood-fired twist. Small plates and shareable sides, like Szechuan Green Beans and Grilled Bok Choy, complement Noko’s Asian-inspired dishes, like Wagyu Brisket with a housemade Asian spice rub and Smoked Gochujang Hot Wings. Additional unique menu items include rotating crudos and tartares, fire-grilled seafood, and seasonal vegetables. Guests can complete their dining experience with Noko’s signature desserts including Coconut Cake with Charred Pineapple, Dole Whip, and a Noko exclusive cookie made by HiFi Cookies.
“The possibilities are endless when it comes to woodfire cooking. Using this technique at Noko brings me back to my childhood in Vietnam when my mom would cook marinated lemongrass chicken after school,” says Executive Chef/Partner Dung “Junior” Vo. “To me, cooking is about creating memories — capturing a moment beyond just eating food, but also the environment, atmosphere, and company that surround you. At Noko, our hope is to create an approachable space for the neighborhood to gather weekly and make memories together.”
In addition to the high-quality fare, the Noko team utilizes wood fire in their seasonally inspired beverage menu, which includes options that range from non-alcoholic cocktails with toasted garnishes to Wagyu-fat washed Old Fashioneds made with Japanese whiskies.
Nestled in an inviting Japanese farmhouse-inspired setting in the charming and eclectic neighborhood of East Nashville, the restaurant’s art and design embody the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, which encourages finding beauty in the imperfection. Boasting a natural color palate of earth tones, warm lighting, and maple woods, guests who enter will be immediately transported by a feeling of Zen. Designed by David LeBoutillier of The Restaurant Studio, the tranquil dining room features unique elements including a firewood wall and modern furniture that plays with the fluidity and rigidity of lines found in nature. Live foliage, natural stone, and wood paneling line the walls, while maple tables and chairs anchor the space. The interior features work by local artist Yanira Vissepo, where Japanese woodblock artworks, featuring indigo from a local farm, and a Noren that she created, will hang along the restaurant’s walls. With indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant can host around 130 guests.
In addition to paving the path for wood-fired, Asian-inspired cuisine in Nashville and beyond, the Noko team believes employee quality of life and community confluence are fundamental to the must-needed change in the hospitality industry today, and are excited to be at the forefront of this movement.
“Our people and their quality of life inside and outside of the four walls of Noko will always be at the forefront of our minds,” says Managing Partner Wilson Brannock. “There will be a relentless effort on our part to continue the conversation of how to be better for our team. We started Noko to be a platform of change for the food & beverage community as a whole, not just for our people, but for everyone who chooses to work in the industry we all know and love.”
As a result, guests can look forward to regular pop-ups with businesses in the local community and Noko will be donating 1% of net profits to local non-profit, Nashville Children’s Alliance, an organization committed to provided healing and support for children who have been abused or exposed to violence. Employees can also expect an extensive employee betterment program, which includes four-day work weeks, two weeks of paid vacation, family meals provided daily, a yearly travel stipend and bonus program, access to an online therapist, a paid gym/yoga membership, health insurance, and more.
Hours of Operation
Noko is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm, and Sunday from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.