Sneak Peek: Pho Mai at the Asia Mall

I can not even be cool about how excited I am for this place to open. Full psycho ramen girl vibes are emanating from my finger tips as I write this. But allow me to put my seaweed snacks and shrimp crackers aside to show you a little sneak peek of Pho Mai which will open a full service restaurant inside Asia Mall next week.

Asia Mall, if you haven’t heard, is the glorious re-do of the former Gander Mountain space in Eden Prairie, just off of Technology Drive. Brilliant. I bet we can find another camo-soaked behemoth that we could turn into a karaoke and sushi paradise, so let’s work on that. Meanwhile, this space has been gutted and retrofitted with a mezzanine level balcony to act as the home for a number of Asian restaurants, tea shops, retail, and one massive grocery store in the middle. I wasn’t allowed to snap photos of all of that glory yet, but you can bet I’ll be there for dumplings and the huge seafood counter as soon as I’m able.

I spied a hotpot restaurant, an outpost of Legendary Spice (which you know I love), a Korean corn dog vendor, Hong Kong specialties, and on the ground floor: Pho Mai. The same family that owns the original Pho Mai in Dinkytown also owns MT Noodles in Brooklyn Park. “We wanted to do something a little fancier,” owner Michael Bui told me, “We have the hole-in-the-wall places, so now we want to have one that’s a bit nicer.”

But first, the donuts please.

Bui and his family are the ones who opened Mochi Dough and Bober Tea in Dinkytown, and plan to bring the franchises to their space in Eden Prairie. So really, it will be like two restaurants in one. If you enter Pho Mai from inside the mall, you’ll first encounter the Mochi Dough ordering kiosk surrounded by pink flowers. Punch in your order and pick it up straight away. 

The full Pho Mai experience will be just a few steps further on. The small room is bright and friendly with sky blue plush seating and gold accents. On one side large windows let you see out into the grocery area of the mall, and on the other side natural light floods in. This is the only restaurant in the complex that has its own door direct to the outside. 

The food will be familiar for fans of the Vietnamese restaurant, and yes there will be pandan cakes right at the front for purchase. “It will have foods you love from both the original Pho Mai and MT Noodles, especially at the start. But eventually we’ll offer Vietnamese dishes and foods that you can’t get at the other locations.,” Bui told me. The kitchen is huge and they’re ready to put those giant wok stations to the test. Pho Mai also plans to offer takeout and delivery at this site, just like the other restaurants, but they may have to figure out staffing first. 

Something new is the full bar. The menu will offer mostly wine and beer, but they are working on some sake and shochu cocktails as well. You’ll be able to wander in and sit at the bar without any reservations. Additionally, there is a VIP room upstairs from the restaurant that will be available for booking by any of the vendors in the mall. It holds a massive round table that seats at least 14 people, with a giant lazy susan in the middle. Can you imagine that pho feast?

The mall plans to roll open slowly, with some concepts ready to welcome guests before others get going. Everyone here is a local operator, and many of the owners were there working on their spaces when I walked through. “We’re all just small owners, we don’t have big corporations backing us, it’s just us.” Bui mentioned, “It’s a big risk for most of us. But I’ve been living in Eden Prairie for 26 years, and I think it’s going to work out.” I’m going to bet that it more than works out.

When it opens fully, the contract with the vendors states that they have to be open 365 days a year, so you will never have a day without noodles in this new world that starts this month. Pho Mai is looking to softly open in the middle of next week with others following over the next two weeks. 

Get ready Minnesota, it’s about time we got something like this. 

November 4, 2022

2:12 AM

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