Sophie Bolich

Nkauj Yi Plans Hmong Cuisine for Northwest Side

Family-owned restaurant to be located at former site of Phongsavan Asian Market.

By - Mar 6th, 2023 03:14 pm
First building of the now-5XEN Super Asian Market. Photo taken August 8th, 2020 by Jeramey Jannene. All Rights Reserved.

First building of the now-5XEN Super Asian Market. Photo taken August 8th, 2020 by Jeramey Jannene. All Rights Reserved.

The Northwest Side may soon have a new option for authentic Hmong cuisine.

Nkauj Yi, a restaurant slated to open inside the 5XEN Super Asian Market at 6318 N. 76th St., would offer dishes such as sticky rice, larb, red curry, chicken, soup and more.

The upcoming restaurant will be a first for owner Xai Vang, though his culinary inclinations can be traced back to his childhood.

“I was always interested in opening a restaurant,” said Vang, who grew up surrounded by homemade food as part of a family that was “always doing a lot of cooking.”

The casual, quick-service restaurant will be takeout-focused, offering limited seating for on-site dining. A simple menu will emphasize convenient grab-and-go options, Vang said.

Vang plans to operate the restaurant with help from several family members. He has no plans for commercial alterations to the space, and said he expects to open as soon as possible, following approval from the City of Milwaukee.

Once open, proposed hours for Nkauj Yi are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, according to a license application for the business.

The upcoming restaurant is slated for a 574-square-foot space inside a much larger building that also houses a gift shop and grocery store, according to a license application. The 14,000-square-foot structure was the original site of Phongsavan Asian Market.

Pai Yang, the market’s founder, opened the business as Phongsavan in 2009 and completed a major expansion in 2016, which included the construction of a 71,000-square-foot building next door, 6300 N. 76th St.

She later sold the business to 5xen Inc., which renamed the market. The new owners proposed a $20 million expansion to the market and received city approval in 2020. But the project never commenced. 5xen vice president Kay Yang (no relation to Pai) is now facing federal charges of fraud and acting as an unregistered investment adviser.

The federal suit notes that Kay Yang and her husband Chao Yang made more than 300 visits to Potawatomi Hotel and Casino between 2016 and 2020. The couple spent $10.7 million on slot machines, according to a federal court filing.

Pai Yang regained control of the property in early 2023, and has since filed a lawsuit alleging that the business sustained “hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages” under 5xen.

5xen also includes a neighboring property at 6270 N. 76th St.

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