Vibrant Vietnamese Favorites from the HomelandCover Story Features
October 19, 2014
Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Anthony Consillio
Delve into the exotic essence of Saigon at Pho My Lien Vietnamese Restaurant. Owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Tommy Dang and Lien Bui, this Aiea eatery abounds with authentic Vietnamese favorites. All restaurant creations are derived from Bui’s family recipes.
Dining Out recently paid a visit to Pho My Lien and caught up with the owners’ friend and financial/marketing adviser Walter James, who shared just how Dang and Bui conquered the American dream by serving their home-style cuisine to the masses. Since opening the doors to their previous Waikiki locale in 2000, this dynamic duo relocated the restaurant in November 2010 to its current home in Westridge Shopping Center, where fresh and fulfilling Vietnamese fare awaits.
DO: How did the idea to open the restaurant come about?
WJ: Tommy worked for our family as a property manager of our Hawaii locations. Lien would make us Vietnamese food, and we knew it was exceptional. So when Lien and Tommy approached me with the idea to open a Vietnamese restaurant, I financially supported the idea, and four months later we were in business in Waikiki.
DO: How does Pho My Lien stand out in Hawaii’s restaurant scene?
WJ: The quality, taste and quantity of food that we serve is outstanding and affordable. All of our dishes also are made with lots of love.
DO: Have any recent changes taken place at the restaurant?
WJ: In addition to dine-in service, we provide great takeout and party-to-go options. Recently, we created a menu for 10, which consists of Crispy Spring Rolls, Green Papaya Salad, Mixed Vegetables Sauteed with Beef, Hot Spicy Lemongrass Stir-fried with Chicken, and Shrimp Fried Rice. The menu was an exceptional success, and we intend to create more party-to-go menus.
We also have added a couple of new items to our repertoire, but our general philosophy and business formula works well. As they say, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”
DO: Bui heads the kitchen, and she obviously has a knack for the trade. Please share some insight into her culinary background.
WJ: Lien has worked in the culinary industry for more than 20 years. Growing up in Vietnam, she acquired the basic (cooking) skills while working with her parents in the business. Then, when Lien immigrated to the U.S., she worked at several local establishments, including Shirokiya, where she served as a chef.
DO: The name of the eatery is Pho My Lien, so, of course, pho is one of the first things that come to mind. For someone who has yet to dine here, please give a glimpse of the pho selection.
WJ: Vietnamese noodles (Pho, $8.50) are a classic, cooked just right and come with meat(s) of your choice. Customers may select from as many as five choices of meat, including slices of rare steak (Thit Bo Tai), Beef Well-Done Flank (Thit Bo Nam), Beef’s Soft Tendon (Gan Bo), Beef Trip (Sach) and Beef Balls (Thit Bo Vien).
DO: Since Pho My Lien’s opening, patrons have become hooked on homemade Vietnamese cuisine. For those who crave something other than pho, what would you recommend?
WJ: Crispy Spring Rolls (Cha Gio, $7.95) is one of our most popular items. It features thin sheets of flour rolled with pork, chicken and shrimp, along with shredded carrot, long rice and mushroom. The rolls are deep-fried to a golden crisp. Lettuce, mint leaves, rice noodles and a special dipping sauce also accompany the dish.
Green Papaya Salad (Goi Du Du Tom, $7.50) is next on the list. It’s a simple, healthy dish with shredded green papaya and pieces of shrimp mixed with mint leaves, peanuts and served with a house-special salad dressing.
DO: Authenticity is reflected in every single one of Pho My Lien’s creations. For the carnivorous appetite, what are a couple bestsellers?
WJ: Mixed Vegetable Sauteed ($7.95) is a delicious choice. Diners may choose from chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or tofu to complement the entree. Also, for $7.95, Hot Spicy Lemongrass Stir-fried with a choice of chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or tofu is a standout, along with Shrimp Fried Rice (Com Chien Tom, $10.95)
DO: What is the inspiration behind the food here?
WJ: The inspiration behind the food is simple: good tasting, wholesome food that reflects the flavors of Vietnam, and, of course, great quality and quantity at a reasonable price. Everything is prepared to order and served perfectly. We try to use locally grown vegetables, such as lettuce, mint, etc., as often as we possibly can.
DO: What’s great food without refreshing drinks? What are a couple of Pho My Lien’s most popular options?
WJ: Two of our more popular drinks are Thai Tea ($3) and Iced or Hot French Coffee with condensed milk ($3.50). Also, we serve a variety of sodas and an assortment of fruit juices.
DO: What do you foresee in the future for Pho My Lien?
WJ: We are looking to expand in the area, and are working on negotiating more space here in the mall. Of course, we would also like to expand throughout Hawaii.
Pho My Lien
Westridge Shopping Center
98-150 Kaonohi St., Suite B213-B, Aiea
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.