POULSBO — They talked about it after their respective graduations from North Kitsap High School in 1984 and 1986 but when Chung Nguyen and Xa Nguyen put it all together late last month even they were surprised.
Like many dreams, Xa (who is not related to Chung) said opening his own restaurant seemed like something that might never happen — when it did and all the preparations were done — all he and his family could do is smile in relief. And, of course, work long, hard hours.
Phoa Xa (pronounced Fo Sa) opened at Poulsbo Village early last week and has been dishing out authentic Vietnamese dishes to the residents of North Kitsap with a smile ever since.
“We’ve been open two days. So far, so good,” Chung explained last Thursday with a laugh. “We’ve been very well received by the community.”
The reason for this can be attributed to one of two things: First, that the group at Phoa Xa is extremely friendly or second, that the unique food offered at the new business is extremely tasty.
Possibly it’s a combination of both.
The menu at Phoa Xa features “strictly Vietnamese food,” he added, noting that every dish is prepared in traditional fashion. While the majority of the items have Far East names that could be used as English tongue twisters — simple explanations are offered for each to ensure dining at Phoa Xa isn’t a formidable task.
“Com ga nuong cha gio,” for instance, is grilled chicken and fried rolls. “Tai” is steak, “pho” is soup and “com suon nuong xa” is grilled pork with lemon grass.
“Finally, we did it,” Xa said. “I’m very excited.”
The two made the long trip from Vietnam in 1981, Xa coming from Hue City and Chung from Lam Dong. After NKHS, Xa said they worked in different jobs but a few years ago began discussing the possibility of opening a restaurant in Poulsbo.
Although it is their first business venture Xa seems to have a good grasp on what it will take to make is Vietnamese noodle soup stir up local appetites.
“The main key to success is to make your customers happy,” he explained. “This is truly traditional Vietnamese food. People eat a lot of pho and rice in Vietnam.”
Two items on the Phoa Xa menu that truly set it apart from other restaurants in the area are “ca phe du” and “ca phe sua,” or iced coffee and milk coffee. The drinks may sound ordinary but they are actually quite unique and offer a sweet aftertaste that is a perfect match for washing down some pho.
“Most of the people in Vietnam like to drink this type of coffee,” Xa said.
One thing that isn’t small is the group’s plans for the future.
“Hopefully, if this one does well we can think about opening another one,” he added.
When asked about his and Chung’s last name, he smiled before answering, “Yes, we have the same last name but we’re not related — just good friends.”
The question had apparently been presented before.