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Viva Le Bambou!
Anthony Corso | Stratford Court

 

Andrew Do and Cuc Nguyen, Andy’s wife. Courtesy Do family.  Click on image to enlarge.

 

Tucked away in the nearby Del Mar Heights Village Shopping Center there is a distinguished restauranteur who is also a devoted amateur tennis player, a former Vietnamese military air force pilot, father of six, and grandfather of seven. His name is Andrew Do and as many readers know, he and his wife, Cuc Nguyen, are the owners of Le Bambou Restaurant.

Before the Vietnam War his family owned and maintained extensive agricultural property; the Communists confiscated all of it.

He became a military pilot, was sent to Keesler Air force Base in Mississippi for training, flew fighters and supported the American military offensive in Vietnam. After the War he had to flee with his family. They were relocated with thousands of others to Camp Pendleton. Fortunately, he had relatives living in San Diego, who had been involved in graduate work at the University of California. They sponsored the family, allowing Andrew, his wife, and six children to pursue what they defined as the “American dream.”

After considerable family discussion, they opened a restaurant in City Heights, the first Vietnamese Restaurant in Southern California. Customers quickly discovered that his wife was a skilled and gifted chef with a mastery of Vietnamese cuisine and an unusual ability to blend French and Asian cuisine. The Do family gained a following of enthusiastic patrons in the very first month thanks to an article in The Reader which extolled the elegant dishes, the ambiance and the friendliness of family members.

In 1986 the family opened the current restaurant in Del Mar at the bidding of numerous patrons. Thus began a lengthy engagement of almost thirty years with a menu that Andy Do notes “has been adjusted to accommodate Del Marian’s desire for low fat, healthy, fresh food.” Numerous reviews note that the dishes are exceptional, “full of flavor and authentic.” The menu includes such esoteric specialties as Lacque Duck, Seafood Clay Pot Rice, Cornish Game Hen, and Ground Shrimp with Sugar Cane, Hot and Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup and a vast array of Lunch Specials. Invariably the reviews all end with “Bon Appetit.”

In 1996 when the Reader began doing “Best Issues” Le Bambou won the reader poll for the best Vietnamese cuisine; they won every year from 1996 onward. The walls are covered with such tributes and other awards including those from San Diego Magazine.

 

The walls are covered with such tributes and other awards including those from San Diego Magazine.  Photo Tony Corso. 
Click on image to enlarge.

Small distinct, local businesses add considerable interest and vitality to large complexes like shopping centers. In this respect, Le Bambou manages to make a substantial contribution to a center that could easily become yet another collection of undistinguished corporate stores and enterprises. Donahue Schreiber, the firm which is engaged in redesign and renovation of the Center, seems to recognize this in its collaborative discussions with the Torrey Pines Planning Group.

As our city and region continue to attract more investors and numerous proposals to develop and redevelop major portions of the area, it becomes increasingly important that establishments like Le Bambou remain, be supported and encouraged as major contributors to the quality of life and to our highly cherished unique environment.

 

 

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