Kaneohe’s Pho My Vi Does It Right

On a sunny late morning recently I walked into Pho My Vi expecting to be the only customer. Early in the week, after a busy holiday weekend, most casual, mall-based restaurants are fairly quiet.

Not this one. Within minutes of seating myself, the door opened and a party of eight arrived for lunch. A few moments later, a group of four came in, and within 15 minutes, the restaurant was bustling and filled with the anticipatory energy of people eager to eat.

Pho My Vi

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Hao To Wong serves summer rolls

It’s obviously no news to Kaneohe residents that Pho My Vi serves good, comforting Vietnamese food that’s both inexpensively priced and fairly portioned.

A modest mom-and-pop operation, the restaurant is owned by Michelle and Jerry Quach. The two are helped in front of house by Michelle’s sister Hao To Wong. It’s Hao To, with her softly spoken explanations of the menu, quiet demeanor and broad smile, who turns a trip to Pho My Vi into one you will want to repeat. If first impressions count, then the first impression of this restaurant is one of genuine hospitality.

On the menu you’ll find the kind of Vietnamese dishes you’d expect to see in similar unpretentious ethnic restaurants: pho, green papaya salad, lemon grass tofu and rice, for example, but there also are a number of house specialties that offer something for the more curious diner.

Fish Clay Pot ($11.95) – white fish that’s been seared over high heat then braised in a fragrant bouquet of herbs and spice – is a house specialty, along with Braised Duck Leg ($8.95) served over egg noodle soup. The soup, flavored with goji berries, ginger and tangerine, comes with bean sprouts, lettuce leaves, lemon and jalapenos. Thai hot and sweet sauces are on the table to liven the broth. But it’s the duck leg, slowly cooked and falling off the bone, that’s the real treat here.

Lobster Wonton ($10.95), Seafood Bowl ($8.95) and Crispy Egg Noodles are other choices offered with a similar slow-cooked soup base and accompanying herbs.

Curries are something of a specialty, and Hao To patiently explains to each diner who asks that their version of Vietnamese curry is different from the Japanese version.

“We use a different type of curry in our dishes, and we use different flavors,” she explains. The flavors are influenced by the use of common Thai ingredients, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, fresh basil and vegetables. “We change it a little from the original recipe for the local taste,” she adds, “and customers seem to like it.”

This is simple food, cooked well and served graciously in a pristine dining room. While white linen tablecloths and pale pastel colors give a cool impression, the partially open kitchen allows a reassuring glimpse into an equally clean kitchen. Attention to detail, like lemon wedges served in water and homemade lemon fish sauce that serves as a perfect accompaniment to cold vermicelli noodles, complete the picture of a family-run restaurant doing everything right.

Larger restaurant operators, please take note: A genuinely warm welcome, good food and attention to detail transport even the humblest restaurant into the realms of greatness.

Happy eating!

Pho My Vi Kaneohe Bay Shopping Center

Open daily from 10 a.m. 247-1628