In 2011 Jeffrey Nguyen joined the fusion-friendly world of food trucks and opened Le Bon de Cuisine in San Jose, which took elements of Vietnamese and French food to make some delicious, unique street food. French and Vietnamese shouldn’t seem like such a dramatic marriage given the influence France has had on Vietnamese cuisine. The French introduced such ingredients as beef, carrots, onions, lettuce, tarragon and, of course, baguettes, which are found at nearly every Vietnamese cafe in the form of sandwiches. Still, given the different ways the cuisines have evolved over the past century, and the distinct ways they’ve used ingredients, the blend is unusual—but in a good way.
Recently, Nguyen has made the transition to a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The food is similar, but the presentation and ambience accent the gourmet qualities better—maybe it’s the contemporary art on the wall. Le Bon de Cuisine remains casual, though, as you order the food off of a big glowing digital menu at the register and wait for your name to be called.
Coming from the food-truck business, the menu is small but with a lot of variety. On the Vietnamese side of the spectrum: pho (beef noodle soup) and garlic noodles. On the French side: coq au vin (red wine stew with braised chicken and roasted potatoes) and a classic French burger with truffle fries. Nguyen is especially qualified to take on the challenge of a French-Vietnamese restaurant. His grandfather, a Vietnamese native, ran a restaurant (also called Le Bon de Cuisine) in Saigon, between 1950 and 1975, which served French food.
For only $3, they sell what look like puffy pork tacos, called Buddha Buns. Upon closer inspection, they seem more like deconstructed pork buns, remade into tiny sandwiches. The pork belly is a truly succulent mixture of pork meat and fat. Mixed with the Cognac reduction sauce, papaya and green onions, the Buddha Buns are very intense, albeit brief, bursts of flavors worth trying.
The garlic noodles, which can be ordered plain for $6.50, or with chicken, pork or shrimp for an additional $2-$3, are much simpler, yet still managed to balance flavors well. I ordered the noodles plain, which still came with crumpled bacon pieces and fresh parsley. The garlic, while quite prominent, was not overpowering. The bacon was a thick cut and surprisingly juicy.
From the burger menu, I opted for the French Burger ($6.50). With the tangy French mustard and the caramelized onions, it had a surprising complexity about it. Off the sandwich menu, I ordered the Fat Charles for $7.95, which was similar to a standard Vietnamese sandwich but with different flavors thrown in the mix. It also has pork belly, which I cannot get enough of, along with roasted jalape–os, slaw, tomato citrus spread and Cognac sauce.
Le Bon de Cuisine
5592 Santa Teresa Blvd., San Jose