Popular Vietnamese eateries will combine efforts in Fields Corner space

The creators of a culinary partnership in Fields Corner: From left, Tin Le and Victoria Nguyen, owner of Anh Hong; Tam Le, co-owner of Pho Hoa, and Baothach Dinh. Seth Daniel photo

Introducing Pho Hoa featuring Anh Hong Restaurant

Two powerhouse restaurateurs in the Vietnamese community – Pho Hoa Restaurant and the recently-closed Anh Hong Restaurant - have landed on the same page, announcing this week that they will combine forces on Dorchester Avenue to create a new culinary establishment.

Victoria Nguyen, owner of Anh Hong, which closed suddenly in December due to rental issues, and Tam Le, co-owner of Pho Hoa Restaurant with his father, Thanh Le, said they will open their new eatery in the coming weeks, carrying the name Pho Hoa featuring Anh Hong Restaurant, and Nguyen will assume the equity of Thanh Le, who is looking to retire after operating the landmark Vietnamese eatery since 1992.

“Marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring, Vietnamese New Year is a time of celebration,” read a statement from both parties. “This year, Pho Hoa Restaurant will also be celebrating its 30th year anniversary. It is only fitting the rebirth of Anh Hong, breathing fresh life into Pho Hoa, is happening during Vietnamese New Year - giving us even more to celebrate this coming year.”

The Vietnamese, or Lunar, New Year started on Feb. 1.

The coming together of the two mainstay eateries is nothing short of fate, both said in an interview with the Reporter this week.

Anh Hong was a very successful regional and neighborhood restaurant, winning many awards over the past seven years since Nguyen took it over. However, a dispute with the building’s landlord led Nguyen to close suddenly at the end of December . It was heartbreaking for Nguyen and the community at the same time.

Meanwhile, Tam Le had just recently helped his father, who wanted to retire, celebrate his 70th birthday, but lingering issues in the restaurant had been bothering Tam Le, and it wouldn’t be easy to keep things going without his father helping out. With so many other projects eating up his time, Tam Le said, the special neighborhood charm of Pho Hoa was being eroded.

A chance meeting of Nguyen and Le at the home.stead café in Fields Corner changed both of their fates and brought the two together for what they expect to be a dynamic new culinary experience in the heart of Dorchester.

“God closed one door and he will open another door,” said Nguyen. “I believe everything happens for a reason. When we met in the coffee shop, there was something different about that encounter than any other on any normal day.”

Tam Le said he saw the possibilities instantly when he heard Nguyen’s story about having to close. One day after the restaurant closed, Nguyen agreed to take a meeting with Tam Le.

“When Tam told me his idea, I wasn’t really ready yet,” said Nguyen, noting that she had been considering offers in Somerville or Quincy. “I thought maybe in the summer…Anh Hong closing had really upset the neighborhood…The subject of Anh Hong closing is very hot out there. People are still talking about it. He didn’t want to wait and said summer might be too long – people will forget, and it will be harder to get them back. He said we needed to start things while the story is still hot.”

Tam Le said he understood Nguyen had lost her business rather suddenly, so he knew there was some grieving that needed to be done, so he gave her about two weeks and then came back with the idea again.

“My ‘M.O.’ is usually to be relentless,” he said. “I knew for this I had to have some restraint. To have a business you had so long die is something that brings a grieving process. I had to give her time to grieve.”

Nguyen said after the two weeks were up, she realized the potential of a quick turnaround, and especially with an established entity like Pho Hoa and its attractive, spacious dining room. The thought of collaboration “woke her up,” she said.

“After the closing, you feel down and there is maybe wrong information out there,” she said. “It’s a sadness inside you. Coming back now is very exciting. I woke up the next day after we talked, and I was a totally different person. I’m motivated and ready. It’s going to be great for the Vietnamese community and the neighborhood.”

Added Tam Le, with a laugh, “It’s like the Avengers. It’s all for good and we’re coming together.”

Tam Le said his father started the restaurant when Tam was 11, and he recalls the 80 and 90-hour weeks his father put in at the beginning. Like Nguyen, it was his “baby,” and both are on the same page with that kind of renewed commitment to revive Pho Hoa and Anh Hong in the same space. They will update the décor and make any repairs that need to be made. Both have unique specialties, such as Pho soup for Pho Hoa, and family-style Seven Courses of Beef for Anh Hong. Fortunately, none of the specialties overlap, and key staff members from both entities will be retained to keep combined menus top-notch.

“One of the most important things coming out of this is the quality staff from Anh Hong and Pho Hoa will keep their jobs and will work together,” said Tam Le. “The two owners and two staffs working together will be special.”

Both also said their families share a common theme, having immigrated to Dorchester in the early 1980s from Vietnam. While their elders worked tireless hours to pursue the American dream, Nguyen and Tam Le said they represented the next generation, and they hoped the collaboration would build on the solid ground that their elders laid down in the neighborhood.

“There are two important themes shared by Anh Hong and Pho Hoa: Creating a special place for the community to enjoy and ensuring that the Vietnamese culture is preserved for future generations,” they both said.

As part of the agreement, both said that Pho Hoa founder Thanh Le will be able to fully retire but will stay on as an advisor as Nguyen takes on the title of general manager.


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