The menu at Kim Son is so vast, it feels like you could eat here for years and still find something new. Now, however, the clock is ticking on this old school Vietnamese restaurant in Gretna.

Kim Son plans to close after 30 years in business, restaurant founder Tina Dieu confirmed. A final date has not yet been set, but she said she expects to close by the end of June.

The decision comes through a combination of factors. The restaurant’s lease is up, and its longtime chef has been sidelined by a serious medical condition, Dieu said. She does not see a way to carry on.

While she’s now considering retirement after so many years running her restaurant, Dieu said she is also heartbroken to contemplate the end of Kim Son.

“I have customers that have been with me 30 years here, I will miss them a lot,” she said. “So many people we know have retired now though.”

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Kim Son restaurant proprietress Tina Dieu serves a platter of salt baked shrimp.

Dieu’s family ran restaurants back in her native Vietnam. But in their new home they were pioneers when they first opened Kim Son in 1988, taking over a stand-alone building adjacent to the Oakwood shopping center.

While Vietnamese staples like pho and spring rolls are now common parlance around New Orleans, they were far less familiar outside the area’s Vietnamese enclave back then. To appeal to more potential customers, the restaurant has always served Chinese-American style dishes alongside its deeply traditional roster of Vietnamese flavors.

This mix made it easier for newcomers to sample the cuisine, and many locals can trace their first tastes of Vietnamese cooking to its tables.  

The kitchen has a particular specialty in rang muoi, or seafood and tofu dishes described on the menu as “salt baked,” which are actually fried and coated with a peppery sauce. On page after page, the Kim Son menu reaches beyond the noodle shop standards for banquet style dishes, often prepared at the table on portable grills or bubbling pots of vinegar. Perhaps the pinnacle of the menu is the Imperial Seven (or Bo 7 Mon), a seven-course progression of beef dishes.

Family meals and group outings to Kim Son often mean filling a table with bouquets of fresh herbs, grilled beef, stacks of seafood and one rice paper wrapper after the next as shared dishes make the rounds.

Delving into the menu has long rewarded the adventurous, while there is still won ton soup and lemon chicken, Polynesian drinks festooned with cocktail umbrellas and paper placemats printed with the Chinese zodiac.

Meals always end with fortune cookies.

Now, many of Kim Son’s fans will undoubtedly be hoping for some change of fortune for the restaurant before its doors close for good.

Kim Son

349 Whitney Ave., Gretna, 504-366-2489

Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.