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Fresh, authentic Vietnamese cuisine in East Bremerton
Those who haven’t tried Vietnamese cuisine have a chance to experience a whole new world of flavors at the Pho House and Grill at 3249 Perry Ave. in East Bremerton. Diners who are more familiar with Vietnamese flavors will likely flock to this emerging gem.
With a lasting influence of French colonialism cropping up from time to time, fresh meats and vegetables are combined with Asian ingredients like fish sauce, cilantro, basil, ginger, lemongrass, star anise, garlic, chilies and more to create flavors that far exceed the sum of the parts.
And for the folks at Pho House and Grill, open for about six months now, it is a truly authentic, family affair.
Lee Hoang helps manage the restaurant while her mom, Minh, is the master chef; her dad, Luong, oversaw the restaurant’s remodel and helps out in the kitchen; and her younger brother, Khoa, helps run the front of the house. Even Lee’s five-year-old son, Liam, unprompted, has gotten in on the action and recently sat a group of customers and provided them menus when nobody else was available.
“Nobody taught him how to do that,” Lee said. “He just saw me doing that and imitated me. I don’t know why we were all in the kitchen at the time, but I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness!’ He’s only five years old, but he’s our future restaurant manager.”
Lee was the first in the family to come to the United States, eventually settling in Tacoma and working a corporate job in Seattle. She also spent time working at her aunt’s Vietnamese restaurant in San Diego which serves as the template for the Pho House and Grill. The rest of her family eventually followed and help make the young restaurant so popular.
It was Lee’s husband, Luong, a Rite-Aid pharmacist working at various stores throughout the peninsula, who found the Bremerton location for Pho House and Grill, formerly a Chinese restaurant. The location, with both a large banquet space and bar area, was just what they were looking for.
“We thought this is great choice to make,” Lee said.
Six months in, a large group of loyal customers agree.
Apart from fresh salads, spring rolls and rice dishes, the menu’s staples are beef noodle soups known as pho (pronounced fuh) and banh mi (bon me) sandwiches. The latter is a combination of grilled meats, pickled carrots and daikon, fresh cucumber, a delicious pate and mayo spread, and cilantro served up on a crusty French baguette. A current $5 special for one of the sandwiches and a soda seems like an unbeatable lunch deal in Bremerton or beyond for that matter.
The light broth of the pho is deceiving, in that there is a deepness and complexity there that one wouldn’t expect at first glance. When asked about what makes it so special, Lee calls her brother over to explain some of the secrets. Lee and Khoa speak briefly in Vietnamese, but both hesitate to give anything away. Secret family recipes, it turns out, know no borders.
What’s worth knowing about the food at Pho House and Grill is that it is fresh, healthy and very, very tasty. Even on warm days, there’s no reason not to enjoy a steaming bowl of pho, a hardy meal in itself that is packed with delicious meat and noodles. That’s because an iced Vietnamese coffee or bubble tea is the perfect compliment, a balance of hot and cold, that mirrors the balanced flavors of the soup itself.
“The bubble tea is not really Vietnamese, but it goes really well with the soup,” Lee said. “You can eat the hot soup and have something cold for dessert. The bubble tea is there to cool you down. Our salad entrees are also perfect for the summertime.”