IN THE KITCHEN Pho Viet’s II, a new Vietnamese restaurant in Newton Centre, traces its origins to Anh Tran. She came to Boston from Vietnam following time as a refugee in Thailand. Once here, she worked at a Vietnamese restaurant, and eventually encouraged her daughter Dung Tran and her husband Hung to open their own. They obliged in 2006 by launching Pho Viet’s, one of several food vendors in an Asian-themed food court in Allston’s Packard’s Corner.
The family had long been looking for a second location and connected with the previous owners of No. 1 Noodle House in Newton. “The beauty of a family restaurant is that everyone has a share in it,” said Jenn Tin, the Trans’ daughter-in-law, who is part of the next generation helping to run the new restaurant. In fact, “Grandma, the matriarch of the family,” was in the kitchen the day the Newton location opened, “still overseeing it and making sure everyone is keeping her recipes the way she intended them,” Tin said.
THE LOCALE Pho Viet’s II opened in Newton in mid-January. Unlike the Allston location where “we have no control over anything other than the food, here, we’re able to take a little leeway in the décor, music, everything,” Tin said. “It’s nice to own something.”
But the family is sticking to the restaurant’s roots: Tin described the Newton location as “food- court style” with seating for 30, where diners order and pay at the counter at the entryway and then find available seating and retrieve their food when it’s ready. Video screens displaying photos of popular menu items hang near the entrance, whetting the appetite for a much-anticipated meal.
ON THE MENU Pho Viet’s II’s menu matches that of its predecessor — and it’s huge. “Don’t be shy about asking us questions. The menu is so extensive that, if you don’t like one thing, we’ll find something meant for you. And when you want to branch out and try new things, we can help you with that, too,” Tin said.
The heart of the menu is the noodle soup, including pho (with rice noodles) or mi (with egg noodles). It’s hard not to fall for the Spicy Beef Noodle Soup ($9.60), a heaping, aromatic bowl owing to lemongrass and garlic, scattered with scallions and cilantro, and served with a side of bean sprouts, basil, green chilies, and lime quarters. The Chicken Rice Noodle Soup ($9.15), has already proven popular in Newton, Tin said. Curry Chicken Soup ($9.60), is a personal favorite, the flavorful spice blend washing over bone-in chicken, noodles, and vegetables, and I also can’t get enough of the Vietnamese Dumpling Noodle Soup ($9.60).
It might be hard to branch out beyond the soups, but branch you must, because the restaurant serves some of the best bánh mi sandwiches ($5.65) in the region. Grilled beef, chicken, pork, ham, or tofu are served on toasted French baguettes brimming with picked vegetables, cilantro, and chili peppers if you please. Vermicelli plates ($9.40 to $10.35) feature thin rice noodles topped with lemongrass-scented meats, seafood, or tofu tossed with mint, scallions, and roasted peanuts, and an entire section of the menu caters to vegetarians. Plus, in a welcome addition, Pho Viet’s II serves Sinh To, or smoothies, in flavors like avocado (my go-to), coconut, and red bean ($4.70), as well as bubble and milk teas with tapioca pearls or coffee jelly balls providing a pleasant pop ($3.75, plus 50 cents for bubbles).
You’re unlikely to leave Pho Viet’s hungry or feeling significantly lighter in the wallet. Newton is fortunate to have a family-owned and operated restaurant serving such exciting, flavorful fare. Go, now.
Pho Viet’s II, 51 Langley Road, Newton Centre, 617-527-8810, www.phoviets.com.Rachel Lebeaux can be reached at email@example.com.