From the outside the building looks essentially the same, but inside, changes are obvious. The Tran family hired a feng shui expert from Seattle to help with layout, colors and energy flow. The west end of the building has been opened up, with the addition of a steam table (for the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, served Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm, $7.50) and a takeout counter.
At 11:20 am, the steam table held pans of fried rice, noodles, broccoli beef, sesame chicken and the signature teriyaki chicken with a choice of mild or spicy sauce. Other dishes were added over the next 20 minutes or so, the delay apparently caused by an unanticipated surge in orders for delivery -- and with a delivery fee of just $3, who wouldn't order in? (Delivery is offered within a limited area only.)
Curiously, the restaurant has two kitchens, explained by attention to detail and an emphasis on authenticity: On the west end of the building, the emphasis is on Chinese-style stir-fry; in the Vietnamese kitchen on the east side, pho is central.
Manager Van Tran insists that "anybody can make teriyaki chicken" as long as they have a char broiler -- the key ingredient, he says, is the sauce. I chose the spicy version ($6, small/$12, large) that Mr. Tran perfected while cooking for Kay's Teriyaki Plus in North Spokane over the past 10 years. Some American-made teriyaki sauces tend to be thick and gravy-esque and either overly salty or overly sweet, but this one has just the right consistency with a balance of savory to sweet that made the chicken, and even the long-grain steamed rice, delightful.
The emphasis on authenticity is echoed in other dishes including the pho, available in beef, chicken or shrimp varieties ($6-$8). To ensure those authentic flavors, the family traveled to Vietnam recently not only to collect recipes but also to learn traditional ways of preparing dishes. In the Vietnamese kitchen, Huong Tran cooks her beef noodle soup the old-country way, allowing it to simmer for several hours -- but with a nod to American health concerns, she then cools it and skims the fat before returning it to the stove. The result is a healthier soup, lower in cholesterol and easier to digest.
According to the manager, one customer has eaten this traditional noodle soup at Le's daily since the restaurant opened because, he says, "It tastes like our country."
-- M.C. PAUL
Le's Teriyaki, 2018 N. Hamilton St., is open Mon-Sat 11 am-9 pm, Sun 11 am-7 pm. Call 487-7700.
BENEFITS Grapes, Grains and Kids
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & his is a great weekend for wine (and beer) lovers. In addition to the annual Taste Washington extravaganza Sunday at the Davenport (see page 56), two more glamorous food-and-drink events will let you enjoy yourself while helping others. The Spokane Advertising Federation holds its 18th annual GRAPE AND GRAIN benefit at Mukagawa Fort Wright Institute on Friday, featuring more than 20 wineries and breweries from across the Northwest. Hors d'oeuvres will complement the beverages, and there will be a silent auction as well. Proceeds will benefit the Ad Federation's scholarship fund and teen drug-awareness advertising competition, along with Project Share, a program to provide energy assistance to families in need.
On Saturday, the Sacred Heart Children's Hospital presents THE POUR, a fundraiser in tribute to Dr. Michael Manz, with proceeds benefiting the hospital's BEST program. Dr. Manz was a child psychiatrist at the Children's Hospital, as well as founder and owner of Mountain Dome Winery. Following his death in 2006, his legacy helped establish the BEST program, a hospital-based program -- the only one of its kind in the U.S. West -- that provides intensive treatment for children with behavioral and emotional problems. More than 20 wineries from across the state, including several locals -- Arbor Crest, Barrister, Caterina, Grande Ronde, Latah Creek, Lone Canary, Nodland, Robert Karl, Townshend, Whitestone, and, of course, Mountain Dome -- will pour samples of their favorite vintages as guests dine and take part in both a silent and live auction. Organizers hope that it will become a favorite annual event.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
The Grape and Grain benefit is Friday, June 6, from 7-10 pm, at Mukagawa Fort Wright Institute, 4000 W. Randolph Rd. Tickets: $40, at the door; $30, in advance at Huckleberry's or Vino. Visit SpokaneADFed.com or call 325-0701. The Pour, a benefit for Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, is Saturday, June 7, at 6 pm at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, 4705 N. Fruithill Rd., Spokane Valley. Tickets: $200. Visit www.thepour.info or call 474-4841.