Sau gần 30 năm trong nghề, nhà hàng Four Sisters, đóng cửa, vào ngày Lễ Mẹ , 14/5/2023…vừa qua..

Xin chuyển tin đến Quý Vị, Quý NT và CH….

Đặc biệt với đồng hương vùng HTĐ và Phụ cận…

Sau gần 30 năm trong nghề, nhà hàng Four Sisters, một quán ăn quen thuộc, nổi tiếng,
trong vùng Thủ đô HTĐ và phụ cận, đóng cửa, vào ngày Lễ Mẹ , 14/5/2023…vừa qua..

Có nhiều nguyên nhân, nhưng trong đó có hai nguyên nhân chánh là tiền thuê tiệm tăng cao, và thiếu nhân sự…

Được biết chủ nhân là ông Kim Lai, là cựu Chiến Sĩ Không quân, ông, bà là người Đồng hương Biên Hòa…

Xin mời Quý Vị theo dõi bài viết dưới đây của W.P để tường..

BMH ///

Washington, D.C

Four Sisters, beloved Vietnamese restaurant, closing after 30 years

By Tim Carman

May 10, 2023 at 12:47 p.m. EDT

From left: Ly Lai, Lieu Lai-Williams, Hoa Lai, Kim Lai, Thanh Tran, Le Lai, Thuan Lai and LoAnn Lai in front of Four Sisters, the family restaurant that opened in 1993. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post)

For almost 15 years, locals have known the place only as Four Sisters, a Vietnamese mainstay that has existed comfortably near a shopping district that includes Target, Sephora, Warby Parker and Le Pain Quotidien. But for the first 15 years of its existence, the restaurant was known as Huong Que, and it started life in the Eden Center, the nexus of Vietnamese food and culture in Falls Church where you could savor a bowl of fragrant pho, shop for the latest in pop music from Vietnam or pick up savory sticky rice cakes for Lunar New Year.

The arc of the restaurant, from Huong Que to Four Sisters, from a strip center catering mostly to Vietnamese immigrants to a shopping district catering mostly to Virginia suburbanites, reflects the journey of the family behind the business. The Lai family landed in America in 1981 with two black trash bags, representing all their worldly belongings. Over the course of three decades, they became the first family of Vietnamese cooking in the D.C. area, their restaurantsfrequented by famous chefs and everyday diners alike.

On Sunday, Four Sisters will officially end its run as the region’s best-known, and possibly most beloved, Vietnamese restaurant. After an almost 30-year run, it will close on Mother’s Day, which seems appropriate for a restaurant built on the recipes of Thanh Tran, the matriarch of the Lai family.

A photo of the Lai sisters hangs over patrons at Four Sisters restaurant in Falls Church. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post)

Tran and her husband, Kim Lai, the founders of Huong Que in 1993, are “having such a hard time even now hearing the restaurant [is] closing. Their hearts are broken. But in their minds, they understand,” said Lieu Lai-Williams, co-owner with sister, Le Lai, since 2014. “It’s a cross between knowing that life goes on and we’re ready to move on, but our hearts are still there. Mine, too. I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Oh, I don’t feel anything.’ I do. How can you not? That’s what the family worked for, you know?”

After surviving the worst that the pandemic could throw at them, Lieu and Le Lai decided the time was right to pull the plug on Four Sisters. There were multiple factors: They were at the end of their lease and facing a rent increase. They, like everyone else in the business, were dealing with labor shortages and inflationary pressures. But Lieu also just wanted to spend time with her two children, ages 12 and 10.

“The deciding point for me personally was my children. Just wanting to be home with them. I just don’t have the energy anymore. I’m kind of young to be saying that, right?” said Lieu, 48. “But it’s been 30 years. It’s not like I’ve only been doing this for five years.”

“I feel like we have succeeded. We have made our mark. I’m ready for the next chapter, whatever that may be,” she added.

Cook Ming “Kelven” Chu in the kitchen. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post)

The paradox of the Huong Que/Four Sisters story is that it’s all about family — and their ability to work together to survive and then thrive — but sometimes at the cost of family togetherness outside the all-consuming demands of the restaurant industry. When Kim and Tran first moved to the States from their home in Bien Hoa, just outside Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), they worked multiple jobs to support their six children. They eventually got into food carts and trucks, selling hot dogs and such to office workers and tourists alike.

“Literally, I never saw my parents as a kid,” oldest son Hoa Lai, 47, told me years ago for a Washington City Paper story. “My sister’s the one who raised us. Not that I’m saying my parents weren’t there all the time.”

But the vending business — and all the family hours invested in making it succeed — helped fund Kim and Tran’s next project, Huong Que, which first occupied a small space inside the lonesome corridors of the Eden Center. So many previous businesses had failed at the location that some considered it a “bad luck place,” as Le told me years ago.

The Lai family at Huong Que in 1999: Front, Lieu Lai; middle row, from left: Ly Lai, Kim Lai (father), Thanh Lai (mother), Le Lai; back row, from left: LoAnn Lai, Thuan Lai, Hoa Lai. (Nancy Andrews/The Washington Post)

The Lai family would reverse the fortunes of that space. They did so with Tran’s home-style cooking, which reminded many Vietnamese diners of home. “We realized that our mom cooked really well and cooked better than a lot of restaurants,” Le said.

But they also did it with charm and attentive service, often delivered by Kim and Tran’s daughters, Ly, Le, LoAnn and Lieu, the four sisters who would be forever tied to the restaurant, if sometimes in name only as they grew up and moved in other directions.

Patrick O’Connell, the chef and founder of the three-Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington, was an early advocate of Huong Que, regularly recommending it in interviews. Introduced to the restaurant by one of his bankers who lived near the Eden Center, O’Connell became a regular. At one point, the chef recalls dining there once or twice a month, always on a Tuesday when the Inn was closed. He’d often order the same dishes because he loved them so: the grilled lemongrass chicken with steamed vermicelli patties and lettuce leaves, crispy pork spring rolls and green papaya salad with shrimp and pork, all staples of Four Sisters.

“We began having little staff parties there,” O’Connell said. “Whenever there was a farewell for a manager or a beloved member of the staff, we would all get together and go there. Or sometimes if I had business in the city, on the way home, I would stop there. So a lot of my staff began to become regular guests there also.”

O’Connell shared a story, which has been repeated in other publications, about convincing the Lai family to supplement the name of their restaurant with something easier for Western tongues. He said he took his cue from a studio portrait of the sisters that used to hang in the restaurant at the Eden Center (and still hangs at the Merrifield location). He said he suggested the family keep the original handle but add “Four Sisters” to it “for Americans who can’t pronounce or spell Huong Que.” This, after all, was the era before cellphones, when people had to call 411 for an address or phone number, the chef said.

Karin Neal, left, and Chrissy Spaulding discuss how to put together their lettuce wraps at Four Sisters. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post)

But Le remembers the story differently. She said she was the one who first considered supplementing the name with “Four Sisters,” in part because non-Vietnamese were constantly mispronouncing Huong Que. Some, Le said, would called it “Hong Key,” which sounded a little too much like “honkie.” Once she learned who O’Connell was, and his experience with running a landmark restaurant, Le said she approached him to get his opinion on the name addition. He fully supported it, she said.

Whoever was the inspiration, Four Sisters became the official brand of the restaurant when it moved to Merrifield in 2008. Huong Que (which Lieu says translates to “taste of home” in English) would be delegated to the family’s past, a reminder of where they came from and how far they had come.

“It’s a great American success story,” O’Connell told The Post. The chef has remained close to the Lai family to this very day. He knew about the closing before almost anyone else.

Four Sisters will soon become history. At least the flagship restaurant that started it all. Oldest sister Ly, 53, and her husband Sly Liao, continue to operate the Four Sisters Grill in Clarendon, a streamlined, fast-casual concept originally founded in 2014 by Hoa and his wife. Youngest son Thuan Lai, 46, opened the 4 Sisters Asian Snack Bar in Ashburn, Va., in 2018 with his wife. It’s still going strong, too.

Le Lai trims flowers at Four Sisters. She does all of the floral arrangements for the restaurant, including growing many of the flowers herself. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post)

After the death of his own Ashburn restaurant, a Vietnamese gastropub called Saigon Outcast, Hoa has sworn off restaurants. He’s now a personal trainer. His older sister, LoAnn Lai, 50, still runs her salon in Georgetown. The two other sisters, Lieu and Le, were the last ones involved with Four Sisters, along with Le’s husband, Ming “Kelven” Chu. Lieu said she wants to take a “long break” after nearly three decades working in restaurants. She’s considering office work, or some other job that would involve less stress than restaurant management.

But Le, 51, and Kelven are considering their options, which could include a resurrection of the Four Sisters brand, though in a smaller iteration than the current 150-seat restaurant. Le has always had a passion for floral arrangements, which she does for the restaurant and as an occasional freelance gig, but “deep down, I think that potentially I may open another Four Sisters somewhere,” Le said. “That would make my mom and dad really happy, for sure.”

As Lieu and Le count down the days to their last service, all they can think about are the customers. They worry the news of the closure will lead to a crush of diners wanting one last bite. They worry they won’t be able to keep up with demand. They worry they will disappoint people.

“If they come in and it’s the last day and we run out of food, it would be a terrible last experience for them,” said Lieu, a professional to the very end.