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Monday, March 29, 2010

Northern-Style Pho at My Father's Kitchen a Hobby That Got Out of Hand

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2010 at 3:22 PM

click to enlarge Henry Nguyen's hearty pho shuns southern niceties. - GENEVIEVE Y./YELP
  • Genevieve Y./Yelp
  • Henry Nguyen's hearty pho shuns southern niceties.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.

When Wendy Trinh wanted to give her husband something to do in semi-retirement, she thought she'd get him a sleepy little restaurant where he could make pho and the other foods Henry Nguyen grew up with in the city of Haiphong in northern Vietnam. "We didn't think we'd be so busy in our first week," says their daughter, Tracy Pan. She says that almost since they opened the doors a week ago today, My Father's Kitchen/Pho Phuong Hong has had a line. Blame a mention in Tablehopper the second day they were open, blame the Western Addition's pent-up appetite for pho or Blue Bottle drip coffee. Whatever. Pan says the pho and other offerings sold out early all last week, and Nguyen finds himself having to adjust to the demand on the fly, tweaking his recipes for volume. Still, she says, apart from kitchen prep, her 60-year-old dad is doing all the cooking himself

"My grandfather had a restaurant in Vietnam," Pan says, "so my dad wants this to be a tribute to his family." That means serving deep-tasting northern-style pho, which is heartier than pho in the south. And you won't find hoisin, a southern favorite, at the tables. In fact, My Father's Kitchen's alternate name, Pho Phuong Hong ― it's reference, Pan says, to the tamarind flowers that are ubiquitous there ― is meant to root the place in Haiphong. Nguyen also serve bun in the traditional way, with noodles and meat served separately instead of sharing the same bowl.

click to enlarge The family-run shop opened last Monday. - GENEVIEVE Y./YELP
  • Genevieve Y./Yelp
  • The family-run shop opened last Monday.
An interior design student, Pan did the décor for the 11-table, 35-seat eatery on Divis, the former Cool Island Café. And along with her boyfriend, she admits she's obsessed with local coffee culture, which is what led her to Blue Bottle. Though My Father's Kitchen offers standard drip now, Pan is working with Blue Bottle wholesale trainer Vien Dobui to develop a company version of traditional Vietnamese drip coffee (see related post). In the meantime, the restaurant uses Vietnamese brand Trung Nguyen ― one old-country tradition My Father's Kitchen doesn't plan to honor much longer.

My Father's Kitchen/ Pho Phuong Hong 1655 Divisadero (at Sutter), 829-2610; open Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

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