A Change ‘PHO’ The Best
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Tiffany Ko, the owner of Fairwood Drive Inn & Pho 27 Cafe, wants to make one thing clear: Vietnamese cuisine is back and here to stay at Pho 27 Cafe. Additionally, the eatery’s revamped menu features Hong Kong cafe-style dishes.
“We not only have pho, cold rice noodles and spring rolls, but we also have Hong Kong cafe food,” Ko confirms. “Hong Kong-style food has English influences, which is different from (typical) American food.”
The inclusion of Hong Kong cafe-style cuisine is Ko’s attempt to offer a larger selection of dishes. The cafe first opened in 2011 with a menu that primarily consisted of pho, along with rice and noodle dishes. The eatery is located within the larger Fairwood Drive Inn, which has featured Chinese cuisine since 1995. However, due to a smaller staff and a limited menu, in 2014, Ko renamed Pho 27 Cafe to Hi-Yip Cuisine, with an emphasis on Cantonese-style dishes.
Upon realizing customers really missed the Vietnamese food from Pho 27 Cafe, though, Ko decided to return to the eatery’s original concept.
“People are familiar with Fairwood (Drive Inn) because it’s been open for 20 years already,” she says. “We lost some customers when we changed Pho 27 Cafe to have Chinese food — they missed the Vietnamese food. I want to let our customers know that we have Vietnamese food, but we also added Hong Kong cafe-style food to the menu.”
Ko’s excited about the return of Pho 27 Cafe — which celebrated its soft launch at the end of August — for several reasons. Her staff has grown and team-work is stronger, and a family friend recently moved from Hong Kong and helped to develop the Cafe’s new menu. “He worked with Star Seafood Restaurant in Hong Kong for a long time and he brings lots of experience to our team,” Ko says. “Everybody likes Hong Kong cafe food because it’s very unique. That’s how Pho 27 Cafe is different from the front (Fairwood) and that’s how we’re different from before.”
Some of the most popular Hong Kong cafe-style dishes on the menu include Mixed Grill Steak ($13.95), which comprises chicken, pork chop, steak, ham and a hot dog, and comes with french fries, broccoli and a tomato, along with the customer’s choice of sauce (onion, tomato or black pepper sauce). The Baked Seafood ($12.95) is another widely requested item, as it includes spaghetti or fried rice topped with cream sauce.
“The baked spaghetti and fried rice dishes come with both minestrone soup and salad,” Ko explains. “You don’t have to pick one or the other; I give the customer both (for a full meal).”
While customers have been excited to try dishes from the Hong Kong-style menu, the original Vietnamese cuisine has been warmly welcomed back. Ko says that families often order Shrimp Summer Roll ($6.75) or Spring Rolls ($8.95) for appetizers. Customer favorites include Lemongrass Chicken Rice Plate ($10.25), which comes with soup and salad; Cold Rice Noodle with Spring Rolls & Barbecue Pork ($10.95), featuring thin rice noodles served with lettuce, bean sprouts, sliced cucumbers and crushed peanuts; and the Pho Special ($9.25 medium, $9.85 large), which consists of beef slices, a beef ball, tendon, brisket and tripe.
“We cook it for many hours until the soup turns out really tasty,” Ko says. “We make sure our soup is fresh every day.”
While the new menu at Pho 27 Cafe is relatively set, Ko says that the eatery will be offering different specials every week in order to keep things fresh.
“We want to have something new every time our customers come,” she confirms.
But the cuisine at Pho 27 Cafe is only one half of the equation for success, according to Ko. She wants every patron who walks through her restaurant’s doors to feel as if they were family.
“Everything we make here comes from the heart,” Ko summarizes. “We want to take care of our customers and want them to have a good experience here.”
Fairwood Drive Inn & Pho 27 Cafe
Kaimuki Shopping Center
3221 Waialae Ave., Suite 21, Honolulu
Open daily, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.