Dza-Thao H. Le is assembling a dream team for the ultimate Vietnamese-Thai restaurant in Tacoma.
Most everyone knows Le as Lele. That’s also the name of her two Vietnamese-Thai restaurants in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood and in Gig Harbor.
Her latest venture combines chefs from Wendy’s II Vietnamese Restaurant, the old Tacoma Mall Boulevard East & West Cafe and staff from her Lele restaurants.
The restaurant will be called Lele East & West and Le expects to open in September in a space that previously held Wendy’s II Vietnamese Restaurant. Le bought the restaurant from Wendy Au, who opened the first Wendy’s Vietnamese in Freighthouse Square in 1988 (Au sold that restaurant to Ngoc-Linh Nguyen in 2014).
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Le expects her 3,200 square feet restaurant will include seating for 110. The space currently is undergoing a significant remodel that includes all new refrigeration, electrical, plumbing and the replacement of just about every surface in the restaurant. Le said to expect the same lush dining room as her Hilltop and Gig Harbor Lele restaurants.
The kitchen staff reads like the Who’s Who of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking in Tacoma. There’s Minh Nguyen, who was chef at Wendy’s for 18 years. There’s also Tuc Dinh, Le’s mother, who was a cook at East & West for 10 years when it operated on Tacoma Mall Boulevard (East & West in Proctor is separately owned). Other staff members from East & West also will work at the new restaurant.
Le said expect to see menu items from Lele, Wendy’s and East & West, plus more new items. She described a 100-item menu that includes flavors from Korea, China and Malaysia.
The restaurant will specialize in vegetarian cooking, with the bulk of the menu easily transformed into meat-free entrees. “About 70 percent of the menu we can make vegetarian, all a diner has to do is tell their server,” said Le.
There will be a full bar with cocktails and beer and wine.
Le said she wanted to name the restaurant with a nod to the former East & West Cafe, which was has been closed for several years, but had operated just a few blocks away. She said she asked for, and received, permission from the Floyd family, who previously operated the Tacoma Mall East & West.
Said Le, “I want to bring back those loyal customers since we’re in the same neighborhood.”
Le opened her first restaurant in 2001 in the former home of the Linh Son Restaurant in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood.
Hilltop: 1012 MLK Jr. Way, Tacoma; 253-572-9491.
Gig Harbor: 4747 Point Fosdick Drive NW, Gig Harbor; 253-514-6382.
Tacoma Mall: Lele East & West is coming to 5015 Tacoma Mall Blvd. in September.