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New South Kitsap eatery won't be offering diners faux pho
Her menu is literally fusion cuisine — a juxtaposition of all her experiences.
Jenny Diep, 35, who is of Chinese descent, was born in Vietnam and moved to the Seattle area when she was 11. As a teenager, she began working in area restaurants, learning recipes to incorporate with those she learned from her family.
The result is Kai Pan Asian Cuisine, which opened last week at 110 Bethel Ave. The menu features a variety of pho, specialty dishes, vermicelli bowls, Vietnamese sandwiches, fried rice and wok-fried noodles. Most items are less than $10.
Diep, who is collaborating with Kyle La at the restaurant, said that their pho is a specialty. Offerings of the fresh rice-noodle soup include tofu and vegetables, chicken, thinly sliced brisket and meatballs. She said she cooks the broth throughout the day and incorporates cilantro, onions and spices.
“I’m trying to focus on the pho because I think it’s very healthy and warming,” Diep said. “It’s like chicken noodle soup for Americans.”
She said health was a significant consideration in devising her menu, and that none of its offerings include MSG, a common food additive.
Health-conscious customers also might consider the vermicelli bowl. Diep offers five different combinations featuring fresh vegetables, which she purchases daily, herbs, ground peanuts and either grilled chicken, pork, scrimp or tofu. She also buys her meats daily. And the dish comes with a surprise.
“The naughty twist is the egg roll,” she said.
Diep considers herself an adventurous eater and also likes to provide those options to her customers.
“I always want someone to try something more on the daring side, like my honey cashew shrimp,” Diep said. “I have giant, jumbo prawns, cashew nuts, and the mayo dressing I create is tangy. The shrimp pops in your mouth because it is crispy.”
The meal is topped with cashews, which is different from the traditional offering of shrimp with walnuts. Diep said she uses cashews in the plate, which is the restaurant’s most expensive at $11.95, because they lack the “bitter” aftertaste that walnuts leave.
Whatever a customer orders, she said she strives to provide a filling meal at a reasonable price.
Diep eventually hopes to expand the menu to include desserts and possibly such mainstays as sesame chicken. She also wants to have beer and wine.
For now, Diep is excited about her restaurant, which is named after her 20-month old son, Kai, and is painted with light shades of green, orange and yellow. The dining area seats about 50 people, and the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“Customers like the colors,” Diep said. “They think it’s happy.”
She also looks forward to soon making Port Orchard her home.
“I’ve lived in the city pretty much all of my life,” Diep said. “It’s just getting too crowded and chaotic over there. I would like to have a place where I could recognize everyone and it’s more like a family. A place where I can recognize all of the faces.”