For the Vo family, reopening Pho Hoa (1308 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 302-2094) last April at its new location was the realization of a decades-old dream. "My parents' dream was always to own their own building, instead of leasing," says owner Anthony Vo. When their lease expired at the previous location, the family had saved enough money to purchase a lot and build from scratch. "That's always been our dream — to build something from the ground up and see it prosper," Vo says.
Opened more than 25 years ago by Anthony's parents, Pho Hoa specializes in authentic Vietnamese cuisine, including vermicelli noodles with char-broiled shrimp, marinated pork with lemongrass, stir-fried beef, beef stew and of course, pho, a soup of rice noodles served with your choice of meat.
While there are similarities between Vietnamese food and other Asian cuisines, Vo points out that Vietnamese food is distinct. "My feeling is that Vietnamese cuisine gets lost between the spectrum of Chinese and Japanese ... and not a lot of people outside of our culture have experienced, or (have) even been open-minded to try Vietnamese food," Vo says.
For those who'd rather stick with something familiar, Pho Hoa also offers banh mi, the Vietnamese version of a po-boy, topped with pate, pickled carrots and daikon, ham, pork and hogshead cheese. This month, Pho Hoa will participate in the New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival for the first time.
Although Pho Hoa has a loyal customer base on the West Bank, Vo hopes New Orleans diners will venture across the river to visit his Harvey restaurant. Pho Hoa is busiest during lunch hours and on Sundays, when families come in to eat and hang out. "The TV's on," Vo says. "If you want to watch football all day long, you're more than welcome to stay here. Whoever walks through the door is like an extension of our family."