Chef Sav cuts food as he preps for an upcoming rush. Meira Bienstock/Bethel Citizen

BETHEL — Le Mu Eats has made a new home for itself on Main Street. From a food truck to cozy quaint restaurant lined with shelves of dried flowers, plants, and cactus, co-manager Elise Sengsavang talks about how the transition has been, the story behind their scratch-to-ready foods, and the details behind choosing the décor.

With Le Mu Eats, it has always been about the strong attention to detail with the food. Everything is cooked from scratch. Chef Sav [Sengsavang] creates all the dishes.

“When you’re eating here, you’re eating stuff that Chef Sav [saw] from start to finish. So he’s trying something out, and the hard part, I think that sometimes customers have, is that they’ll try something, they’ll really like it, [and are] satisfied with it,” explains Elise.

However, she said, no dish is ever cooked the same way twice, and because Chef Sav likes to play with ingredients to find different ingredients that match well together, the menu is always changing, in addition to the staple items. That said, trying new things that are similar, “[is] a part of that is just trusting that like you’re going to enjoy your meal even if it’s not the exact same thing that you had last time.”

But where do all the unique ideas come from? All the constant new fresh ideas for recipes? What is the driving force?

Chef Save grew up in Virginia so he has big roots with Southern food. His parents immigrated from Laos so he was exposed to many cultures growing up. He came from two schools of thought.

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The first: “Just craving sets that we kind of circulate through our own house,” i.e. fried chicken, she laughs.

Second: “And then the other school of thought is [what] new one out there that we can play with? What can we learn about?”

Elise came from parents who were in the Army so she was constantly moving, although she was born in Maine, with her roots in Maine as well. Because she constantly moved, she was exposed to more things. When the two came together, the ideas for food began blooming.

“There’s like different factors to it. They kind of make it this really lovely and complex story,” says Elise.

There was no one specific category food that they fit. Though, because the question is asked so often, they say, modern Americans, because it’s really just a reflection of his story, however there is a big chunk of Southeast Asian influence as well.

“Obviously that’s like, the focus of the food in the home he grew up in, both of his parents being immigrants from Laos.”

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Now the décor of the restaurant is like the food in that the focuses is on the small detail.

“I think a big part of what we wanted to create in a space that was ours is the feeling of our homes … a lot of the dried flowers will be a big part of the aesthetic around here and right now there’s a lot of white wall going on which I love at the base but we’re going  to be bringing in a lot of color … I will say that the bathroom – we have the charming blue shanty over there and it was all blue. I wanted to kind of bring that … that was the color of my wedding dress, which is why we have that.”

Everything is there for a reason. The bar counter-top has 2,000 chopsticks on-top of it (under epoxied glass) which they aligned with another so that is looks like the woven containers which hold sticky rice (called ‘aep khao’).

The back of the chairs and lamps again mirror the same woven-element, the chairs reminding her of her grandmother’s chairs and those same interwoven rice-baskets again. The cobalt blue placed tastefully around the restaurant was inspired by Elise’s wedding dress which was a hand-woven blue material, as described above. There will be 30 more incoming frames which are going to be layered and textured with blue flowers.

However, like all new restaurants, there are growing pains.

“Definitely challenges with opening a brick-and-mortar space during a pandemic,” explains Elise. “I mean, obviously, a food truck was built for pandemic life, with it being strictly to-go. Now we have this space that we’ve invested in and we want to focus a lot on the service that we can provide for dining in, but it’s not necessarily the most appropriate time for that to be our sole focus … so we still have a pretty decent to-go program.”

Despite this blip, Chef Sav and Elise are grateful.

“I want people to know we really appreciate their patience as we figure it out. Because we’re not just figuring out a restaurant. Again, it’s not like a black and white thing of like going from a smaller space to a bigger space.

“We’re still small space and we don’t really plan on or want to be any bigger than this,” explains Elise. Why? “Quality.” she says simply. “You can’t mass produce something when you’re making [it with] your two hands like that. It just doesn’t work. You’re going to compromise something in the quality. So I think the biggest thing is like being thankful for the patience and grace that we’ve been shown.”

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