Son Nguyen opened his Vietnamese restaurant by John Tyler Highway last spring, quickly soaring to a 4.5-star rating on Yelp — which it's held into 2017.
Chopsticks Pho and Grill boasts the popular broth soup, Pho, as well as Vietnamese sandwiches and noodle and rice dishes.
Son Nguyen's 21-year-old nephew Khang Nguyen mans the host stand while Son Nguyen greets customers walking in. Williamsburg was sorely lacking in Vietnamese dining options, Khang Nguyen said.
So, his uncle decided to change that. Having moved here a decade ago from Vietnam, Son Nguyen already ran a nail salon in the area, so opening another small business wasn't a huge ordeal, Khang said.
"He wanted to open one so people can try the food," Khang Nguyen said. "It's pretty healthy."
Pho, often a breakfast meal in Vietnam and usually made with beef, has spread to all corners of the United States. The broth spends hours simmering before a host of vegetable and beef parts — including tripe (cow's stomach) — are added.
"Pho is one of the best soups, I would say. "If people haven't tried it they think it might be like a ramen noodle or something, but this is different," Khang Nguyen said. "The broth is from the beef and the bones so it's not from the salt and other stuff, so it's flavorful. It's real ingredients."
At Chopsticks, people can order classic beef pho in five variations or choose chicken, seafood or vegetables. Khang Nguyen said pho with sliced Eye Round Steak is the most popular meal by far at all times — and temperatures — of the year.
"Even though it's hot outside, like 90 outside, people still get the soup," Khang Nguyen said. "If you want a soup, even though it's hot, you should try the pho soup."
But there's something you should always try when eating Vietnamese food, Khang said.
"A lot of people don't want to try that because there's the smell," Khang Nguyen said. "We have some dishes and you're supposed to eat it with the fish sauce so some people don't even try the sauce and just eat it plain … if you don't eat it with it it's just not going to be as good."
When he hands people their food, Khang Nguyen said he always suggests they at least try the sauce.
Chopsticks offers chicken, beef, seafood or vegetables as bases for the main dishes as well as a number of appetizers. Because making Pho is a time commitment for the at-home cook, Khang Nguyen recommends trying to make spring rolls, one of Chopsticks' most popular appetizers.
A rice paper roll that doesn't include much cooking, it's simple and delicious, he said. Vermicelli noodles and shrimp join lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts and scallions in the center and a peanut dipping sauce goes on the side.
Another meal made with real ingredients — healthy and good tasting.
Want to go?
Chopsticks is at 5251 John Tyler Highway. For more information visit chopstickpho.wixsite.com or call 757-603-6614.
What you need:
8 Rice paper wraps
8 pre-cooked large shrimp, cut in half
Lettuce leaves, separated and whole
2 ounces Vermicelli rice noodles
1 cucumber, sliced thinly
1 bunch of bean sprouts,
1/4 cup Water
Bring 1/4 cup water to boil. Add vermicelli and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain.
Add warm water to large bowl. Dunk rice paper into water to dampen, then lay flat.
Toward one edge of the rice paper, lay in order: lettuce leaf, handful of vermicelli, bean sprouts, cucumber slices and scallions.
Roll shorter edge over vegetables, then add two shrimp halves and tuck in sides of wrap. Finish rolling.
Repeat with rest of rice paper wraps.
Serve with peanut dipping sauce.