"The only Asian country that can get away with higher prices tends to be Japanese cuisine, just because of the presentation and the environment that it's usually presented in,” he adds. “It looks more composed, like sushi for instance, which looks almost jewel-like and there's a ritual to it. So, people are willing to pay for that. You'll also notice that with Japanese food, much of it is usually presented individually, you don't eat as many things communally as you do with other Asian cultures, and I think that's also why they're able to have a different price point."
Pham goes on to explain some of the other perceived barriers, which he sees as obstacles for some Southeast Asian restaurants to be considered approachable fine-dining options for many people. "I think there's a barrier of comfort, because generally with Vietnamese or Thai restaurants, people have this impression of them because they started out as restaurants for immigrants and they're very small mom-and-pop restaurants, so they're not necessarily well-versed in service,” he explains. “So with the menu, sometimes you can't understand it or you might not be familiar with the words, so you don't know what things are. It may just not be what Western people are accustomed to. That's why the menu at Simbal has no unfamiliar words, we don't use any fancy words. I took all of that out because I didn't want people to ask the servers, and the servers have to explain to them and [diners] might feel awkward or uncomfortable." It’s also why he wanted the restaurant to have an open kitchen, so that guests could see the entire process as their meals are prepared.