By Faith Greco
Crazy Pho You, at the corner of Bronson and Carling, specializes in authentic Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese cuisine. The restaurant’s newest owner, Khanh Luu, is excited to serve the local community his delicious fresh food.
According to Luu, his parents were the first to open a Vietnamese restaurant in Ottawa – it was called Little Saigon. As a self-described “restaurant kid,” Luu grew up in the service industry. Watching his parents successfully run a restaurant inspired Luu to eventually pursue the same line of work.
“When I was in high school, which was probably 25 years ago, this was an Italian restaurant. So I told myself one day, I will open a really nice Vietnamese restaurant here, eventually. The opportunity came and I took it.”
Though he grew up in the neighborhood where the restaurant is located, the road to Crazy Pho You wasn’t a straight line. Luu worked as a computer engineer, then owned and operated a construction company for 20 years. It was a major career transition to get into the restaurant business, a risk that has undoubtedly paid off.
“Opening the restaurant was a bit nerve wracking at the beginning, but I knew I could do it because I cook,” Luu said.
Using his intergenerational knowledge of Asain cuisine, Luu has put his unique spin on his family’s recipes, improving already fabulous dishes. He believes the authenticity of this restaurant is what sets it apart from similar establishments. The prices are excellent, given the generous servings and the quality of the food.
“Our spring rolls set us apart. My mom still makes the spring rolls. Our banh mi also sets us apart because we barbecue the meat. And our pho, we stew the broth for almost two days,” says Luu. “Everything we use is from scratch. We don’t take anything outside. We do everything in-house.”
The pho is packed with succulent meat, noodles and veggies, but the broth is definitely the star of the dish. It is bursting with flavour and evokes the feeling of comfort as you can truly taste the amount of care and effort put into it.
The restaurant gives off a relaxed yet sophisticated energy. You can expect to be greeted with a light smell of incense mixed with a melody of spices being used in the kitchen. Plants line the restaurant, adding hints of green to the predominantly white and black room.
Little glass-boat decorations can be found on the tables and LED lights line the bottoms of the booths, constantly transitioning colors. Multiple TVs are mounted on the walls. However, the most eye-catching decorative element is the modern graffiti wall. To support local business, Luu hired a young artist to produce the red doodle-esque drawings that plaster one of the walls, giving a very modern feel.
The restaurant was hit hard by the COVID-19. Luu explains that prior to the pandemic, a majority of customers were high school or university students. The restaurant lost half its business during the pandemic but hopes to return to normal soon. It is a great hangout spot for students, whether it’s to come for a meal or for a study session alone or with friends.
Crazy Pho You is going to be releasing a highly anticipated dessert menu in the near future. Luu says we should expect to see a Cuban flan. He also plans to introduce an Italian tiramisu – though not an Asian dish, the owner has an affinity for it after living in Little Italy his whole life.
“Because I grew up in little Italy, I’m kind of stuck in little Italy,” Luu said.
Crazy Pho You receives glowing Google reviews, and it’s no wonder why this restaurant is a hit. The food, service and atmosphere are truly top notch. This hidden gem of a restaurant is the ultimate hangout for anyone looking for a great meal and a great time.
Faith Greco is a third-year journalism student pursing a minor in history at Carleton University. She is The Charlatan’s op/ed editor, a foreign correspondent for Panoramic Magazine, and social media manager for CASE RNs. She has published in the Ottawa Citizen, Glebe Report, The Charlatan, Panoramic Magazine, Healthing and The Sun.