Sisters Anna Nguyen and Chelsea Le won't be able to celebrate the anniversary of their first joint venture until the next leap year in 2020 – they opened Friend or Pho on February 29, in a heritage terrace opposite Yarraville's Sun Theatre.
The daughters of Vietnamese immigrants, Nguyen and Le learnt the restaurant trade from their parents, who ran a couple of bakeries in the area when the girls were young.
Le (a former pastry chef) is in the kitchen with "Uncle" Hung (ex-Hong Van), who has come out of retirement to cook a menu that takes cues from the north (rice noodle soups made from a 12-hour stock, including a vegan version) and south (broken rice with a grilled pork chop topped with a fried egg).
Nguyen, a designer at an architectural firm who now moonlights as a restaurant manager, is responsible for the smart fitout: a few blondwood benches around a white central island, shelves lined with colourful condiments and lanterns brought back from a research trip to Saigon; an outdoor courtyard uses fold-down recycled timber benches.
It's currently BYO only, but there's a killer iced coffee; a cold-drip brew floating atop a thick layer of condensed milk. "Give it a bit of a whirl," Nguyen says, "depending on how much sweetness you want."
In a couple of weeks they'll be extending their opening hours – the best time to eat pho is early in the day, so breakfast is on the cards.
Open Mon-Tue 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sun 11am-10pm.
3 Ballarat Street, Yarraville, 03 9042 4431, friendorpho.com.au