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In the mood for soup

As fall crawls its way towards winter, more and more people reach into their kitchen cabinets for something to warm their bones.

For some, chicken noodle soup will do.

Others spoon and simmer something thick and hearty on their stove.

For Marvin Lee, the owner of a new Bremerton soup restaurant named Pho Hoa, the coldest season of the year brings with it hopes that foul weather will drive hungry local residents through his freshly painted doors.

“We’ll introduce a new taste in food to the people of Bremerton,” he said. “It’s very exciting. We know a lot of people like this taste of noodle.”

The type of noodle Lee raves about is made with rice, and it swims in a bowl of long-simmered stock. There are fresh bean sprouts, chilies, coriander and a choice of eight herbs for accompaniment.

Pho means “your own bowl” and it is the type of soup that ends up in both your mouth and your napkin. Dedicated customers handle the long noodles with grace, but the newcomer might take a slap in the face.

Lee is selling comfort food.

Just like chicken noodle or thick Russian Borscht, Pho is the type of soup that one might reach for with the sniffles, something that makes you feel better.

“We are looking at the fast food (market) and it is going down,” Lee said. “A lot of people are trying to eat healthy food. Pho is fast and healthy.”

Lee said all meals will be in customers’ hands within two minutes of their order.

Pho Hoa is the name of a franchise chain that was started in San Francisco’s China town twenty years ago. It has expanded to 85 stores throughout the U.S. Hoa means “flower.”

Many of the stores have popped up in sections of the country that get pretty cold during these months, said Lee.

“The most challenging thing is, I really don’t know what kind of customer I’ll be facing,” Lee, who has managed and cooked in a California restaurant for the last five years, said.

Lee, 48, has opened the business with the monetary support of his brother, and he has spent the last six weeks working until midnight to turn a former Italian restaurant building on Wheaton Way into something that looks Chinese.

“This building is a very nice building, but we have changed the whole interior,” Lee said with a chuckle.

He has added a curve to the walls and constructed a kitchen to fit his dreams. He has painted all the walls and tiled the floor anew.

Lee plans on doing it all once the store is open, from cooking to managing to waiting tables.

The hours will be long, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, but Lee is excited. What about his reasons for opening the business?

“Money, to tell you the truth,” he said.

He chose Bremerton over Silverdale because the older town just had more soul.

Lee hopes his soup will become an addiction.

“If you start to like this Pho you never get tired of it, you want it more and more,” he said.

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