HA & VL Founders to Open New Vietnamese Soup Shop in Late June
Food pilgrims know one absolute truth about Portland’s Asian eats scene: HA & VL serves the best collection of Vietnamese soups this side of Saigon. The colorful SE 82nd Avenue café serves two versions per day, mornings and afternoons only, each bowl lavished with depth, nuance, and flavor excitement. The shop, which I first wrote about in 2008 on a tip from No. 1 fan, Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker, was founded by Ha “Christina” Luu and William Voung H. (the HA and VL of the name). These days, it's an all-out destination for rabid regulars and national food writers alike.
For the past two years, HA & VL has been in the capable hands of Christina and William’s son Peter, himself a very good cook. Now, Christina, a spunky 65 year old, and William, who just turned 75, tell Eat Beat they are coming out of semi-retirement to launch Rose VL Deli, an expanded dinner-only spin-off at 6424 SE Powell Boulevard, with more menu choices and more rarely seen noodle soups. The couple is shooting to open in late June. Hours will be 4–9 pm daily (closed Tuesdays).
Rose VL Deli will have more than 30 seats and a much larger kitchen than their original spot. Most of HA & VL’s menu will be available, soups to banh mi sandwiches, not to mentioned their vaunted Vietnamese ice coffee and awesome mi quang turmeric noodles. Christina hopes to bump up offerings to serve four, not two, soups daily, plus some of the wonderful specials only found occasionally at HA & VL. That means more opportunities to dive into her pho kho gia, a “dry” chicken pho with sweet potatoes and sour sauce. The chef is also busy perfecting her bun Hanoi (vermicelli noodles with grilled pork patties), bun hen (vermicelli with baby clams), and pots of fresh lotus tea.
Given the long hours HA&VL’s owners have traditionally spent tending to their simmering pots, it begs the question: Why another restaurant’s worth of work? Christina says she’s ready to push her craft to a new level. As for William, he’s all about making people smile: “Customers kept asking us for dinner,” he says. “We’re trying to make the customers happy.”
I can’t stop smiling already.
Below, soup wizard Ha “Christina” Luu shares photos of her Vietnamese soups, coming soon at the new Rose VL Deli.