In 1985, BachLien Ly was starving. The boat she was travelling on from Saigon had run out of food. In the nick of time, the vessel arrived in Indonesia, where Ly spent 10 months learning English in a refugee camp and hoping against hope that she could make it to America.
Nearly three decades later, Ly looks back on those harder times as she presides over her own restaurant in America, takes care of her three children, and helps talk new immigrants through their troubles. No matter how much time or geography separates them, her homeland still shines through in Vietnam Garden’s bamboo branches, bodhi trees, and murals of Vinh Ha Long. The aromas of lemongrass, mint, long coriander, and Thai basil leaves add to the illusion of having travelled thousands of miles as they drift from bowls of pho soup or traditional hot pots. On the gleaming wooden tables, glasses of coconut soda and bubble tea click together over vegetarian feasts, and sweet milk mingles with dark Vietnamese coffees.