We remember Kim Son when it was a litty-bitty place frequented by Vietnamese transplants. The food was wonderful and personal. The black-pepper sauté crab was messy, but delicious, full of juicy brininess. The dish made Kim Son famous. In turn, Kim Son made Vietnamese food famous, at least in Houston. Sure, Mai’s Restaurant and a handful of others have existed just as long. But the restaurant that took Vietnamese mainstream was the La Family. Mama La worked hard in the kitchen -- her seven children, too. Now there are multiple Kim Son locations. The black-pepper crab is still pretty tasty, but other dishes haven’t passed the test of time. Too Americanized, or just too rushed. Still, Kim Son gets credit for launching Houston’s love affair with Vietnamese food. There are three Kim Sons. The Stafford location remains one of our favorite places for dim sum. (We know, it’s Chinese, but Kim Son does it well.) Get there early, at the latest 11:30 a.m. on weekends, or you’ll end up waiting in line. Dim sum is also available on the menu weekdays.
In 1982, Kim Su Tran La, aka Mama La, opened the second Kim Son in Houston’s Old Chinatown downtown, close to the current location on Jefferson. The first Kim Son was in Vinh Long province at the tip of southern Vietnam. The family abandoned the restaurant after the communist army captured Saigon in April 1975.