Flickering from the ends of each table at Anh + Chi are green glass lanterns, casting a homey glow over the bustling restaurant.
Montecristo | Keagan Perlette | June 21, 2016
The lamps are just one of the meaningful details chosen by owners Amelie and Vincent Nguyen that recall the legacy of their father, who ran Pho Hoang Vietnamese Restaurant—Anh + Chi’s predecessor at the windowed space at the corner of Main and 18th. “We found this box and in it was these lanterns,” remembers Amelie. “My parents bought them 20 years ago in Vietnam. It’s just a sign that [my father is] with us every step of the way, and he’s here lighting our path.”
After their father died in 2010, the Nguyen siblings realized they had to step up to the plate—chopsticks in hand—to continue the restaurant business their parents had been running for 33 years. Amelie and Vincent’s parents fled Vietnam and arrived in Vancouver in 1980. To satiate the Vietnamese community’s homesickness, the couple began selling pho out of their home, and later out of a smaller space on Main and 20th, now home to Chef Claire’s. In 1997, Pho Hoang opened its doors down the street, at the corner of 18th.
Though Vincent attended medical school and Amelie primarily works in public heath, food is in their blood. Their mother grew up working in her mother’s cafe in northern Vietnam, where she would later meet their father; and relatives in Seattle own two restaurants that became the siblings’ inspiration for the new space. With help from their mother, aunts, and uncles, the duo set out to revamp the restaurant. Armed with tried and true recipes from every region of Vietnam (collected by Amelie on a cross-country trip with her mother and grandmother); a few treasures from the family table (including a delicate, traditional Vietnamese flan which Amelie makes herself); and some old favourites from the Pho Hoang menu (including the much-loved spring rolls), the Nguyen siblings reopened the restaurant as Anh + Chi, which means “older brother and older sister” in Vietnamese.
Anh + Chi offers authentic Vietnamese food that comes straight from the heart of the Nguyen family and their reverence for culinary tradition, paired with a bright, modern space and a fantastic bar program. Down-to-earth dishes such as broken rice paper salad, grilled aubergine, and Vietnamese crepes are served alongside cocktails prepared with handmade tonics and syrups, and local beer including 33 Acres. Guests can indulge in a giant pitcher of carefully crafted Vietnamese Pimm’s and Limeade, or choose a made-from-scratch soda with variations like salty plum and dragon fruit tonic. “We wanted to create a space that’s relevant to the Main Street community, for it to become a gathering place,” says Amelie. “It really is honoring our parents.” Everything their father established is still a part of Anh + Chi, and with each plate served, his legacy only grows.