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Vietnamese bistro ventures far beyond pho

The bread is baking, the pork is roasting and the pho is cooking in Albuquerque’s Mile-Hi District.

Le Bistro became the newest addition to the corridor when the Vietnamese eatery launched earlier this month on San Pedro between Lomas and Constitution.

Le Bistro's menu includes, from left, shrimp fried rice, the "birds nest" combo, clay pot rice with chicken and grilled chicken with lemongrass.

Le Bistro’s menu includes, from left, shrimp fried rice, the “birds nest” combo, clay pot rice with chicken and grilled chicken with lemongrass.

Neighbors and other passersby had eagerly awaited its debut, one preceded by an eight-month remodel of a onetime strip mall bead store.

But their wait was relatively short considering that Mindy Nguyen, the manager and a part-owner, had been planning the place for five years. She says the idea goes back to her time dishing out chicken tenders at a local mall food court. That job taught her she liked the restaurant business. but wanted one that tapped into her own heritage and the American public’s passion for Vietnamese cuisine.

As part of the prep work, Nguyen – who had moved to Albuquerque from Saigon in 1990 – even returned to her native country last year for months of culinary study.

The result is a long menu of pho, noodle and rice dishes, and banh mi – Vietnamese sandwiches dressed with the likes of barbecued pork, grilled chicken, tofu and even fried eggs, and then topped with a mix of pickled radishes, carrots, cilantro, jalapeños, cucumber and Vietnamese mayonnaise. Aside from bahn mis ($5-6),

Be Nguyen, left, and Lien Than of Albuquerque dine at the new Le Bistro restaurant on San Pedro near Lomas NE.

Be Nguyen, left, and Lien Than of Albuquerque dine at the new Le Bistro restaurant on San Pedro near Lomas NE.

most menu items fall into the $8-13 range.

Nguyen isn’t done yet.

She says she will introduce cake and other baked goods as she hires more staff, but notes that Le Bistro already makes its sandwich baguettes in-house every morning.

Those fresh buns, the real fruit used in the boba smoothies and even the mint plants growing out back are among the features Nguyen touts as she walks around Le Bistro, a 4,500-square-foot space divided as if it were two different restaurants. An orange wall separates a full-service, white-tablecloth dining room from a fast food-esque section. Designed primarily for those just ordering a banh mi or, say, a smoothie, Nguyen says customers on the more casual side can still order any regular entree to go.

“She put a lot of work and effort into this,” says Nguyen’s daughter Cynthia. “It’s a long process, but she thinks it was all worth it for her.”

Le Bistro’s dining room serves 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, while the casual side of the restaurant serves 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.

It is located at 1313 San Pedro NE. The phone number is 266-6118.

Saucy signs off

The Saucy Italian Bistro is no more – but Albuquerque likely hasn’t seen the last of the well-known restaurateur behind it.

As I recently reported online, Maria Constantine has closed Saucy after three years in business, having sold the property at 2912 Juan Tabo NE to an unnamed out-of-state investor. But she says that she intends to return to the local dining scene by next summer with a new restaurant at a different location. She says the menu would veer more toward the Greek food she served at Mykonos, the Mediterranean eatery she started nearly 20 years ago but has since sold.

“I’m not done; I’m taking some time off,” Constantine says. “I’m not retired by any stretch of the imagination. I’m beginning, as I call it, a new chapter.”

She says “we did very well” with Saucy, but that her mother recently died and she wanted some time away from the restaurant business.

Steve Lyon of Pegasus Retail, who represented Constantine in the sale of the property, says he will also help the new owners as they look for ways to utilize the site. Lyon says they could lease to another restaurateur, update and expand the building into a multi-unit retail venue or possibly find a tenant who wants to tear down the building and start fresh.

For your coffee break consideration …

Country Club Plaza is about to get a caffeine jolt.

35 North Coffee, a budding New Mexico cafe chain, plans to open its first Albuquerque location this week inside the Old Town-area development.

Founded in 2015 in Santa Fe, 35 North offers a range of buzzy options from drip coffee to nitrogen-infused coffee and a range of espresso drinks. One of the most popular menu items so far is the Latitude Adjustment, a blend of coffee, butter, MCT and coconut oils, says Elizabeth McLeod, director of operations for the cafe brand.

“We actually have a roaster on premises at the Santa Fe store and we roast all our coffee beans ourselves,” says McLeod, noting that the Santa Fe shop will provide the roasted beans for the new Albuquerque location, as well.

Customers can pair their coffee with a host of breakfast and lunch goodies, such as oatmeal, quiche, sandwiches, salads, bistro boxes, wraps and what McLeod calls the specialty: powdered sugar-dusted beignets with a choice of mixed berry coulis or dark chocolate sauce.

The new cafe is located at 1720 Central SW. Once it opens, the hours will be 7 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. The phone number is 243-1627.

And happy hour too …

Speaking of the Country Club area, Vinaigrette has unveiled a new Salad Bar menu featuring six libations ($7-8 each) that keep with the salad bistro’s overall theme.

They include That Green Drink (celery, kale, jalapeño, lime, ginger syrup and La Paz Agave Wine) and the Cider Cup (hard cider, ginger beer, apples, oranges and raspberries).

Vinaigrette, which has an existing beer/wine lineup, ushered in the new drinks with a few new snack items, too. Think black bean-and-kale nachos ($7) and kale fritters ($6.50).

Vinaigrette’s Albuquerque location is located at 1828 Central SW. The menu is also available at the Santa Fe location.

From photography to firearms

The old Kurt’s Camera Corral in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights is now catering to shooters of a different kind.

The building at 1713 Juan Tabo NE – emptied by Kurt’s in late 2015 – is now home to Geoffrey Russell Outfitters, according to CBRE’s Lia Armstrong and Jim Dountas, who brokered its sale.

Geoffrey Russell Outfitters is a new gun shop owned by a local pastor, Luke McKinnon, his father, Doug, and friend Steve Russell.

Luke McKinnon says the business stems from a lifelong interest in hunting and shooting sports, and that the store will be geared toward people with similar hobbies.

“We’re doing less of the tactical (weapons), and more of the hunting and self defense-, concealed carry-type stuff,” he says, noting that the inventory ranges from an entry-level pistol priced around $200 to custom pistol that runs $3,700, plus ammunition and knives.

The shop also has classroom space that the owners plan to use to for concealed carry sessions, first-time buyer lessons and other educational programming.

Geoffrey Russell is open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays. The phone number is 750-0860.

If you have retail news to share, contact me at jdyer@abqjournal.com or 823-3864. For more regular updates on Albuquerque shopping and restaurant news, visit my blog at ABQjournal.com or follow @abqdyer on Twitter.

 

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