Stunning and Authentic Vietnamese Restaurant Now Open in Mississauga
No matter what month it is, there's no food more satisfying or comforting than pho—a signature Vietnamese soup famous for its flavourful broth and hearty toppings.
And although most Vietnamese places do pho justice, some produce astounding and exquisite noodle soup (and pork and mango salad and spring rolls, of course) and pair it with an absolutely unforgettable atmosphere.
One of those gems is the newly opened Pho Ngoc Yen, a beautifully decorated and stunningly tasty Vietnamese resto that just took shape on Kamato Road in the Tomken and 401 area in Mississauga.
"This is a family business, the whole family made it together," explains Tri Tran, one of the owners and the executive chef of the family-owned Pho Ngoc Yen.
The soft spoken Tran, comfortable and at home in his elegant and atmospheric nature-inspired resto, beams when he talks about the restaurant that his family dreamed about opening for years.
"We had been looking for a restaurant for a very long time in many places and I found this one. I think it's meant for us," he says.
Tran isn't new to the restaurant industry. A long time chef and operator, he completed a culinary apprenticeship at Fanshawe College in London, Ont. and worked as a chef (and eventually as an owner) at Millie's Bistro in Toronto.
Now, he's bringing his flair for flavour and decor (more on that later) to his hidden haunt in Mississauga.
"Design is in my blood. My brother does it too, he's a graphic designer," says Tran.
To say that he's a skilled designer is an understatement. The spacious resto is incredibly serene and atmospheric, boasting leafy accents, rustic wood finishes and large canopied tables that look and feel like non-cheesy jungle cabanas. The resto can also double as event space, as it features a stage for karaoke (although karoake is only available upon request) and a banquet section.
Tran said the space already hosted a small wedding and has been the site of a few large (think 100 guests or more) birthday parties.
But decor aside (and the gorgeous fall-themed pumpkin spread really is something to behold), Tran is all about the food—and the dream of making food and sharing his culture with others.
"[My family and I] had a dream we could open a restaurant and we could wear traditional dress. We've been talking about it for years, and now it's happened."
Tran, who is originally from Vietnam, moved to Canada in 1988. He's from the southern part of the country, but traveled all of Vietnam with a former colleague who was looking to study traditional cooking techniques to eventually open an Asian restaurant in Canada.
When patrons visit Pho Ngoc Yen, Tran says they comment on the authenticity of the food and how, for many, it truly brings back memories of home. While I can't speak to its authenticity in a truly meaningful way because I'm not from that part of the world, I can say that the steaming hot rare beef pho stands up against hearty, delicious soup served in Hanoi.
So, too, do the crispy Vietnamese spring rolls, served with delicate, subtle fish sauce.
Other commendable dishes include the flavourful and authentic pad Thai—a dish that gets extra points for its spectacular presentation—and the vermicelli with pork.
"This menu, pretty much everything is good," says Tran. "We put our heart in here, I put my soul in here. I love cooking, I love food. The seasoning, the taste, everything. I try to make something really authentic. We get a lot of comments that it's so authentic, that it's like being in Vietnam."
Interestingly enough, the hidden resto has been attracting diners from far and wide.
"It's crazy, it's really busy," says Tran. "We're not advertising anything. It's all word of mouth. Mississauga is a perfect location for us. People from Hamilton, Guelph, Toronto and everywhere come up here. Vietnamese people from Hamilton will come by here on the weekend on their way to the [St. Lawrence] Market in Toronto. People line up here at 10:30 in the morning to eat. We get people from Richmond Hill who say they heard about the restaurant from friends."
Even at 9:00 p.m. at night, the restaurant is bustling with families who have come by to indulge in huge bowls of piping hot pho, all of them being attentively served by the helpful and friendly wait staff. While it's certainly not unheard of for a suburban restaurant to be hopping at night, it's impressive for a resto as tucked away as Pho Ngoc Yen.
What's most impressive still is that, despite the upscale casual atmosphere, the food is reasonably priced. Most dishes, including sizeable entrees, are well under $20. In fact, most of the pho is under $10.
And while the food is delicious, the atmosphere truly sets the place apart—especially since Tran and his team aren't afraid to get tastefully festive.
"Two weeks ago, I did mum flowers. It was like Vietnamese New Year, or Tet," says Tran. "I have a plan for a Christmas tree that people have never seen before.”
In the meantime, Tran and his family are working to keep up with demand and enjoying their success.
"I'm really lucky, I have a lot of people from the factories around us. Day time is nuts, weekends are the same thing."
So, will Tran and his family ever consider expanding, or is Mississauga their one and only home for now?
"No plans for a second location yet," he says. "You have to put heart and soul and energy and everything to make it work. You want it be perfect before you do another one."