New Vietnamese restaurant in Breckenridge pairs mother and her three daughters
June 13, 2018
Diners who've flocked to the Peak of Asia since its December opening don't likely know the restaurant that serves spring rolls, wonton soup and other Vietnamese delicacies functions as more than just another Breckenridge eatery, especially for the family who started it.
That's because the dining establishment is the anchor piece that's meant to keep together a mother and three daughters who can't imagine going through life without one and another.
"Basically, our theory is that, when we come here (to the U.S.), we have to help each other," said Lua Ton, one of the sisters.
"Even when we buy houses, we live close by," she continued. "We want to keep that tradition. Even though our lifestyles are busy, we want to be there for the whole family. We have different operations, but we are here for good times and bad times to go through life."
The quartet includes Lua, her sisters Khanh and Trang, and their mom, Lien Nguyen. All are excited to be offering a menu of authentic Vietnamese recipes that owe much of their style and flavor to a mix of Asian and French influences.
One dish that best exemplifies the confluence of cultures is the Vietnamese crepe, or Banh Xeo. It's a pan-fried, rice flour crepe stuffed full of shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and carrots, all for $13.95.
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"If you look at the menu, they're reasonable prices," Lua said. "It's not outrageous, and people love it."
Inside the establishment, each sister has her specialty. Working in the kitchen, Trang wears the chef's hat. She is the oldest of the three, and like their mother, Trang is "meticulous" when it comes to her kitchen, Lua said, explaining how Trang strives for absolutely consistency as she recreates "clean dishes" from family recipes.
By clean, Lua was talking about the attention to cleanliness, but she was also referrng to the food itself, such as a slow-cooked broth that's prepared fresh daily and is so translucent you can see right through it to the bottom of the bowl.
There's no MSG in any of the meals they serve, Lua said, and most dishes come heavy on the veggies. So far, the pork and shrimp crispy rolls have been their best-seller, Khanh added.
She is the stylist in the family, coming into the restaurant business with a background in special events, cake design and desserts.
The baby of the family, Lua, is the entrepreneur. All four are originally from Vietnam, but Lua was the first to relocate to Summit County after landing in Colorado. After graduating from the University of Colorado in Denver with a business degree, Lua was walking Frisco's Main Street when she happened upon the Flying Crane Boutique, which was in the process of closing.
Lua recalled peeking through the window, liking the name, thinking it fit well with her heritage, and soon worked out a deal to purchase the store. Later she bought Colisco Wearables, giving her two shops in downtown Frisco selling everything from winter coats and yoga pants to sunglasses and other fashionable accessories.
With Lua planted in Summit County, her sisters soon followed suit. Once here, they opened a massage parlor inside the La Cima Mall in Breckenridge, where they worked for about a decade. The entire time they were easing achy muscles, Khanh recalled, clients kept asking for recommendations on where to eat, which led the sisters to consider opening their own restaurant.
And why not? Food has been important of their family for generations, and the Tons have other family members who've operated or are currently running restaurants not just in Vietnam and the U.S., but across the world. One is in New Zealand and President Bill Clinton, of all people, once dined there, Lua boasted, adding that Clinton isn't the first head of state to enjoy one of their family's recipes.
"My grandma, you know, she passed away a long time ago, but she used to cook for the king and queen in the old days, like as a chef," Lua said. "My mom had a lot of influence on that, and so when she cooked for us, it's very similar to what (my grandma) served for the king and queen (in Vietnam)."
So far, the new restaurant has been well received, too. A crowd often starts piling up around 5 p.m., and things can get rather busy for a dinner service. Their first couple weeks, things were "crazy," Lua said.
Like most siblings, the Tons have found it's not always easy working together, and they admit they can get on each other's nerves at times.
"Yes, it definitely has some troublesome times, but you just think about the bigger picture, that we're only here for the good time and not for a long time, so we have to make the best of it," Lua said. "At the end of the day, we sit down and laugh about it. That's how we go through life."
What does their mom think of all of it?
"She said that she's very happy to have her dream come true, that all of the sisters are together," Lua said translating the question into Vietnamese and her mother's response into English. "Finally, her dream has come true."
This story originally published March 13, 2018, on summitdaily.com. It appeared in the Explore Summit 2018 summer magazine.
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