Pho Maxia Vietnamese Restaurant, which received 2-1/2 stars in 2014 and was on Newsday's Top 100 list for 2015, has been sold. Previous co-owner Hoa Kevin Du said that because of back and hip problems, his brother, chef-co-owner David Yu, could no longer cook. A call to the restaurant elicited no information; neither the owner nor a manager was on premise. Du did say, however, that the new owners were not Vietnamese.
On a recent visit, I found that both the place and the menu looked the same, but the food wasn’t what it had been. While pho (the namesake noodle soup) with beef was good and hearty, it lacked the rich and aromatic quality that distinguished Yu’s soup. Characterless spring rolls, meant to be bundled into lettuce leaves along with mint leaves, came with only one anemic looking spring of mint. Then, there was the traditional banh mi sandwich made with grilled hash pork (similar to a burger) and topped with lettuce, pickled carrot, cilantro and cucumber. The patty was a bit overcooked, the condiments adding little more than an overwhelming sweetness. That same sweetness characterized grilled pork over rice, a dish once rife with nuance that, now, played only one note.
Still, this wasn’t bad food. What was missing, though, was the bold and complex juxtaposition of salty-sour-sweet-spicy and the magic that once made the little strip mall storefront such a magnet. Because of this, it's no longer on the Top 100 list.
Pho Maxia is at 817 Carman Ave., Westbury, 516-414-1738