BANGOR, Maine — Rice noodles, broth, a side of jalapenos, bean sprouts, fresh basil and a lime wedge comprise this restaurant’s version of pho, a Vietnamese staple served primarily for breakfast.
In 2013, Bangor got a taste of the dish when Little Vietnam opened in March. At the time, the restaurant at 687 Hogan Road was owned by four people, including Biu Vo.
Patrons of the restaurant in the Maine Square Mall may have noticed Little Vietnam’s sign has disappeared. Instead, a different sign, which reads “Asian Bistro and Bar,” has taken its place.
Vo is now the solitary owner of the business and its chef.
“I wanted to do this. I said, ‘Can I do it?’ And they said, ‘No, no, no,’” Vo said of the previous owners and his desire to bring different dishes to the restaurant’s offerings. After they bowed out, Vo was left, and he has completely redesigned the space and the menu.
“Now I’m by myself. I changed the name, the menu, everything,” Vo said.
To top it off, he renamed the restaurant to represent the expanded selection he now offers.
“Before it was Little Vietnam restaurant, and you could cook the food from Vietnam only. Now you can cook Vietnam[ese] food, Chinese food, American food — whatever you want, you can cook,” Vo said.
The selection now includes choices from Chinese cuisine, such as chicken lo mein and chicken chow mein. Pho is still on the menu, along with other items, such as Bun Thit Nuong — fire-grilled beef, pork or chicken served with vermicelli noodles and mixed with greens, fried shallots, roasted peanuts and traditional sauce — and much more.
Vo, a native of Vietnam, moved to the U.S. 26 years ago. He started off in Massachusetts, then moved to Portland.
“I lived there a couple years and worked there for a company where I cut fish,” Vo said. Vo has no formal training as a chef.
“I learned it myself — everything,” he said.
Vo said another reason he wanted to expand the menu and rename the restaurant was to bring in more customers.
“When we were selling the food from Vietnam, it was too slow,” he said. He has seen business pick up slightly since he renamed the restaurant and expanded the menu, but he hopes more patrons will come check out the redesigned space and new options.