Chinese cuisine

Love Your Local: Keeping Mom and Dad’s Hard Work Alive Through Covid at Ōtāhuhu Try It Out Restaurant

Ōtāhuhu Vietnamese restaurant Try It Out has hard work, resilience and extremely loyal customers to thank for carrying the family business through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jenny and Jane Ha, who inherited the restaurant when their mother retired and their father died, said they never thought of giving up, despite going through the ‘lowest of lows’ during the pandemic.

“At first it was difficult… The restaurant is our life, our way of life,” said Jenny Ha.

Jenny and Jane HA inherited Try It Out from their parents when their mother retired and their father passed away.

Emma Clark-Dow / Stuff

Jenny and Jane HA inherited Try It Out from their parents when their mother retired and their father passed away.

“We had no choice but to stick with it. It didn’t even cross our minds. »

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Jenny and Jane’s parents are refugees from Vietnam and have always had a passion for Vietnamese cuisine.

When they opened Try It Out in 1989, they worked hard to make the restaurant the success it is today, and Jenny recalled that they “just didn’t go home. home “.

“They would just come home for a shower or a nap before going back to the restaurant, and sometimes even sleep in the store,” Jenny said.

Memories of their father’s two daughters live on through the restaurant’s iconic name.

Jenny said her dad, who didn’t speak much English, asked her to translate the Vietnamese phrase meaning “go in and try” into English – which is how the name Try It Out was born.

“There were times when I thought about changing it up to something a little fancier,” Jenny said.

The HA sisters learned everything they knew about cooking and running a restaurant from their parents.

Emma Clark-Dow / Stuff

The HA sisters learned everything they knew about cooking and running a restaurant from their parents.

“But it reminds me of our father, and whether I like it or not, it sticks.”

In 1989, Kiwis weren’t as familiar with Vietnamese cuisine as they were in 2022, which meant that many of the restaurant’s first customers were Asian themselves.

“The Kiwis knew Chinese cuisine and some Thai dishes. People didn’t know what to expect when visiting Try It Out,” Jenny said.

Try It Out is known for its fresh and authentic cuisine, including one of its specialties - banh mi.

Emma Clark-Dow / Stuff

Try It Out is known for its fresh and authentic cuisine, including one of its specialties – banh mi.

But soon, news of Try It Out’s fresh, authentic cuisine began to spread, and children who had grown up eating at the restaurant began bringing their friends and family, and its popularity grew exponentially.

Jenny said they have customers who eat their pho every day and others who travel around the area just to get their hands on a banh mi.

“Our food is what makes Try It Out popular. We put so many things in it that it takes a long time to prepare it. It needs the right amount of ingredients, herbs, warmth and lots of care,” Jenny said.

Jenny HA said people were flocking across Auckland to eat their pho.

Emma Clark-Dow / Stuff

Jenny HA said people were flocking across Auckland to eat their pho.

When Thing visited Try It Out, the clock had just struck and the parking lot was already full. According to the sisters, this was just the start of their daily lunch rush.

It was the dedication to their customers and the work ethic the Ha sisters’ parents had instilled in them from an early age that got the family and their Try It Out staff through Covid.

“My mum came through the Vietnam War, she came to New Zealand on a boat full of 80 other people – she went through so much hardship, so we knew they would pull through,” Jenny said.

Jenny and Jane HA said that although Covid was

Emma Clark-Dow / Stuff

Jenny and Jane HA said that although Covid was “the lowest of lows”, the strength they learned from their mother helped them through.

“We have learned to adapt. We did take-out, changed the amount of food we prepared, and asked our customers what they needed and what else we could do,” Jenny said.

When Omicron swept Auckland in February, the Try It Out staff were hit hard.

“One after another people were getting sick, we were very understaffed. We had to do so much work that I could barely recognize myself,” Jenny said.

“I’m very proud of us and our staff because we’ve been very resilient.”

Try It Out’s clientele is almost back to what it was before Covid, and Jenny said now is the time to give back to their loyal customers, with renovations to make the restaurant “fancy”.

Despite its success, Jenny has no intention of letting the restaurant go unrun by her family.

“If it wasn’t us kids running it, it wouldn’t be the same. You can’t teach love,” she said.