On Thursday of last week, our RRR group met for lunch at Doson Noodle House. While enjoying our meal, I noticed Mr. Ha sneak in with his briefcase. Luckily, this gave me the opportunity to catch him and arrange an interview. When I asked, he said he was free right then and there (which would have been perfect had I not forgotten my notes!) so I decided that I would wing it. Even though I was improvising, I was still able to find out a lot about the history and inner-workings of Doson Noodle House.
Mr. Ha got his first taste of the restaurant business while he was working as a busboy in San Francisco. While there, he met a chef from Shang-Hai who taught him the Chinese style of cooking. In 1978, Mr. Ha moved to New Orleans, and he has been there ever since. In 1997, he opened Chinese’s Chinese on Oak Street. The name eventually changed to Doson Noodle House before the restaurant made its move. One week before Hurricane Katrina, Doson Noodle House’s new location (135 N. Carrollton Ave.) was set to open. After Katrina struck, the restaurant had to be completely redone, yet Mr. Ha says that Doson was the first restaurant to open on N. Carrollton after the storm. He said that there were days when he would open to a line that was at least three blocks long.
When things settled down, Mr. Ha says that he noticed many of his customers from Oak Street had migrated to the new address. I asked him if he knew many of his customers by name, and he said absolutely. He then pointed to several tables in the restaurant explaining who people were, whereabouts they worked, and that many of them frequented Doson’s several times a week for lunch. He also said that I would be surprised by the amount of deliveries the restaurant makes during the week.
While talking with Mr. Ha, I also had to opportunity to take a tour of the kitchen. Everything was spotless and several cooks had their own personal stations. One lady was hand-rolling the spring rolls (which are amazing by the way!) until they looked just right. Another lady was making Pho with fresh ingredients. The walk-in freezer was humongous, and I saw the biggest wok I had ever seen. While touring, Mr. Ha informed me that most of his vegetables come from local farmers and that if he, himself, would not eat something, then he most definitely would not serve it to someone else.
Not wanting to overstay my visit, I thanked Mr. Ha for his hospitality and gave him my business card. I’ve been invited back whenever I wish, and he said next time I’m welcome to talk with some of his regulars if they’re willing. So if you’re a regular to Doson Noodle House, beware! Other photographs and more to come next week.