When I met Quy Duong, it only took a couple of minutes for me to understand the love and appreciation he has for his adopted city of Raleigh. That being said, Quy carries a fondness and passion for his natal city of Huế in Vietnam. A graduate of NC State University and a Mechanical Engineer by trade, Quy clearly professes his passion for his home country with the opening of Pho Pho Pho. This week marks the 6th week of operation for Pho Pho Pho. Although this restaurant is a new dining experience in Raleigh, Mr. Duong is not new to the vibrant food scene of the Triangle. He previously managed Kabuki Japanese Steakhouse in Cary. Also, in conjunction with his partner, they opened up Sushi Blues Cafe, a Raleigh institution for the past 16 years. Quy has seen Glenwood South develop over the years and is elated with the amount of energy and sophisticated palates that have emerged since 1999. This has not only attributed to the success of many restaurants in the Triangle, but also makes it a perfect time to add another wonderful restaurant venue to such a culturally diverse area.
Quy’s new restaurant is a very personal endeavor. He brings authentic Vietnamese cuisine adding a personal touch to not only the menu, but the spirits and décor as well. He stressed to me the importance of staying true to his Vietnamese heritage and honoring the core ingredients that compose the fare on the menu. As I sat at one of the three large wooden tables in the restaurant, built by Quy, you can’t help but notice the beautiful chalkboard drawings of the Truong Tien Bridge, Trưng Sisters and the Thiên Mụ Pagoda. These drawings are certainly a conversation starter, which I believe Quy hopes to evoke when dining at Pho Pho Pho. Arrays of photographs depicting life in Vietnam also adorn the walls of the restaurant, which Quy had commissioned by a Vietnamese photographer.
Mr. Duong’s admiration for the state of North Carolina is evident by his diverse selection of micro brewed beer on the menu. Full Steam, Mother Earth, Foothills and Blowing Rock are four of the craft breweries featured from the Tar Heel State. You can also find a nice selection of Asian bottled beers including Beer Lao, Tiger, Huế and Export 33, to name a few. I’m especially excited to sample some of the beautifully descriptive cocktails listed on the menu. The Pink Lotus made with Domaine De Canton, grapefruit juice and prosecco is calling for me. If you fancy sake, Pho Pho Pho’s got it. Quy’s current drink menu list’s a total of seven, both filtered and unfiltered sake’s. The Kikusui Kukai Mango and Kikusui Kukai Pomelo sound particularly inviting to me.
As I listened to some classic rock while sipping on my Vietnamese coffee (a must try!) at Pho Pho Pho, I felt I was at an ultra hip joint that fosters a warm “Welcome Home” environment. Quy brings the comforts of Vietnam to the Oak City with the core meals listed on his menu. As a huge fan of Pho, I have described it in my previous social media posts as “comfort food”. I was pleasantly surprised when Quy described Pho and some of the other items on his menu as comfort food as well. One of the main staples on Pho Pho Pho’s menu is the Bún bò Huế. Let me break this down. Bún means noodles and bò means Beef. Huế, was the imperial capital of Vietnam. The main ingredient of this sultry dish is a rich pork broth with a heavy lemon grass essence. Pineapple and citrus juices are also incorporated in the broth, which adds hints of sweetness to the dish. Bún bò Huế is accompanied by cabbage, kale, onion, bean sprouts, scallions, mint, basil, cilantro and bamboo sprouts. Bún bò Huế is traditionally served with banana flower. This vegetable is expensive, cannot be easily found in Raleigh and has a short shelf life. As a result, Mr. Duong substitutes kale, which is a sturdy green that can be locally sourced. I know we won’t mind the use of kale, since many North Carolinian’s and its’ transplants love their kale! Bitter melon is another traditional vegetable used in Vietnamese cuisine which Pho Pho Pho has incorporated into their Bitter Melon salad dish, a customer favorite. Now you know dessert is important to me, so I did ask the golden question: What’s on your dessert menu? Quy explained that Vietnamese desserts are heavily influenced by the French. You are guaranteed to find flan on the menu as well as some other desserts. Flan is a classic Vietnamese dessert, which is a crème caramel that is sweet and served cold…loved by both kids and adults.
Soon to come at Pho Pho Pho are weekend brunches featuring dishes not listed on the daily menu. The cuisine will be reserved for brunch only due to the complexity and amount of hours involved in developing those creations. In the future, Quy also will host special dinners featuring Vietnamese dishes with beer or sake pairings. There’s so much appeal to Pho Pho Pho, whether you want to indulge in a hot bowl of Pho (aka Vietnamese comfort food), sip on some sake, enjoy a local microbrew on draft or quench that sweet tooth with flan, Pho Pho Pho’s got it. To close, Mr. Duong confided that he loved watching the 1980’s sitcom, Cheers. He was fascinated by the sense of community on the show. He knew realistically that the show did not depict reality, however, I have a feeling Pho Pho Pho will in the future evoke that same sense of community. Who knows, maybe this will be the place where everyone knows your name.