Sharing the corner of the Rice Shopping Center with the bowling alley, Keith and Tiffany Do have served up traditional Vietnamese cuisine at Pho Kauai restaurant for over nine years.
A renovation is in progress with new tables and chairs.
The lighting, painting, ceiling and flooring are also scheduled for this year.
Pho Kauai was until recently the only Vietnamese restaurant on the island. It is known for its beef soups, Vermicelli noodles and curry dishes.
“The menu is Vietnamese mostly, with a few alterations and the Phat Thai, spicy fried rice, and curry dishes are always popular,” said Pho Kauai owner Keith Do.
“I think the name says it all, Pho Kauai,” Do said. “Pho is a synonym for beef noodle soup.”
Pho, or Vietnamese noodle soup, comes in varieties of rare beef, chicken, meat balls, or flank. The secret is the lengthy preparation.
“There is no fast pho,” Do said. “It is done when it’s done. We cannot just throw it together.”
The next day’s batch begins at 3 p.m. with all-night simmering and draining to sweeten the flavor.
The work finishes up around 8 a.m. when the tender meat and broth has absorbed the simmering flavor.
Pho is popular on cool or rainy days. On a hot day, the cold Vermicelli noodle bowls move very well.
The noodles are served cold along with lemon grass, beansprouts, mint leaf, pickled carrot, cucumber, green onion, and crushed peanuts.
On top is a choice of grilled meats, whether marinated beef, chicken or shrimp, along with pork and eggrolls with a side of Vietnamese sauces.
The Banh mi sandwich may soon be making a comeback.
This great lunch item comes and goes at Pho Kauai, where its expansive menu is sensitive to customer preference and they prioritize the time consuming items.
Influenced by the Colonial period, the six-inch lightly toasted French baguette is made fresh daily at a local bakery.
Inside is a blend of French pâté, pork belly, jalapeno, cilantro, cucumber, pickled carrots, salt, pepper and light soy for flavor.
“It has always been a traditional ‘grab-and-go’ kind of lunch for the Vietnamese folks,” Do said.
Banh mi varieties range from tofu to grilled or shredded chicken and teriyaki beef, he added.
The goal at Pho Kauai is to make it unique but authentic.
Grilled or steamed pork, chicken or shrimp over noodles or rice is another pillar of items on the Vietnamese menu.
They grill and do not cook on a griddle, said Tiffany Do.
Making their own sauces has helped to ensure the food is authentic. It also means you won’t find another taste quite like Pho Kauai on the island.
Vinegar sauces for the spring roll, or peanut sauces for the fresh rolls, they make them all and it gives the food the homemade touch. They make the seasonings and marinades for the meat from scratch and this is why people come back and order the same things same time, he added.
“We are like a mom-and-pop model in what we can offer to the public,” Do said.
Pho Kauai is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.