Falansai's modern Vietnamese food is diversifying the Bushwick dining scene. The spiffy setting and sophisticated cooking satisfy, even if the food is sometimes short on punch.
'vietnamese' on Serious Eats
Sweet Chili is owned by Chef Lisa Fernandes, who you may remember from Top Chef's Season 4 in Chicago. The truck debuted on June 1st with a menu inspired by Thai and Vietnamese cooking. Take a closer look at this Vendy Awards nominee is cooking after the jump.
Sao Mai in the East Village does a great job at the mainstay of nearly every Vietnamese restaurant order: papaya salad.
In a city full of many delicious foods, there is a bit of a shortage of truly excellent Vietnamese sandwiches. That' being said, New York isn't completely devoid of decent bánh mì, and the sandwiches we tried at Sao Mai were a sure indicator that we're moving in the right direction.
Sao Mai is my far and away my favorite Vietnamese restaurant within walking distance of my home, and it might be even be my favorite in Manhattan, period. Just like the best Vietnamese restaurants in Chinatown, Sao Mai has a no-frills, stripped-down dining room with brisk service that offers flavors that are bright and vibrant. With its arrival in the East Village, I have stopped heading down to Baxter Street to Nha Trang or New Pasteur (now Phó Pasteur) for my phó fix.
Reading through last week's New York Diet by Ivan Orkin, I was surprised when I came across his casual mention of "a Vietnamese restaurant on Jerome Avenue." Not because of the location, but because my meals at the restaurant, recognizable as Com Tam Ninh Kieu, have been unanimously unimpressive. Still, his positive reference made me wonder, have I been I missing something? I returned to the restaurant to find out.
There's no shortage of pork chops in this neighborhood, but Paris' rendition ($6) stands out. For one there's the size of the thing: three big blades of centimeter-thick pork spread across the plate.
Nightingale 9, Rob Newton's new effort at Vietnamese cooking in Carroll Gardens, seems poised to bridge all sorts of gaps, such as the false one between traditional Asian cooking versus modern and the more real one between casual eating and studied cuisine. Though his food veers towards traditional Vietnamese forms, there's something about his cooking that reminds me of Tien Ho's tenure at the then-Vietnamese-esque (and damn good) Ma Peche. It's thoughtful, precise, and pretty original.
As a casual neighborhood with greater ambitions, the restaurant doesn't fail. But it doesn't fully succeed either.
In Vietnam, signs that read bia hơi mark open spaces where locals sit on plastic kiddie chairs, swill cheap fresh beer, and snack on salted fried peanuts. Bia in Williamsburg doesn't aim to replicate the experience of a night out in Hanoi, but it captures a similar bacchanalian spirit.
The coconut curry lamb from Xe Máy was our introduction to the sandwich shop's twists on the classic Vietnamese sandwich. The "Hog" ($6), with its flavorful grilled pork, is truer to banh mi form.
A newfangled banh mi that works quite well, with sweet and spicy coconut curry-braised lamb and fresh garnishes on good bread.
It feels rarer and rarer to find an undiscovered gem in Williamsburg, but Nha Toi is one of those diamonds-in-the-rough.
Saigon Market won't change your mind about Vietnamese cuisine, but it's doing some of the finest Southeast Asian cooking in the Bronx.
Just down the street from his southern restaurant Seersucker and laidback coffee shop Smith Canteen, you'll find chef Rob Newton topping a bowl of pho with cilantro sprigs or making Vietnamese coffee popsicles at his new spot, Nightingale 9.
If you find yourself in Ridgewood, this sweet soup at the new Vietnamese restaurant Bun-Ker is worth keeping on your radar.
Bún-Ker opened about six weeks ago on a gloomy stretch of Metropolitan Avenue in Ridgewood, and while I wouldn't call it destination Vietnamese fare yet, it's already looking like a great addition to the neighborhood. Case in point: this spicy fish banh mi.
Catfish isn't really lunch routine—even less so in Chinatown where it's hardly common—but this Ca Kho To (Caramel Fish, $9.95) at Pho Grand fits the bill surprisingly well.
You may remember Paris Sandwich in Chinatown from our Manhattan banh mi tasting, where its pre-made and reheated sandwiches came in last place. With a redundant store nearby on Grand Street, the Mott Street location transformed itself into a full-service restaurant where sub-$10 satisfy and then some.
There was a time back when your only options for Asian food in the Morningside Heights vicinity were a semi-decent Korean barbecue joint, pre-fab Japanese-ish sushi, or takeout Chinese joints that specialized in fried chicken. Things have improved massively since then. Today there's not just one, but two Vietnamese sandwich shops within walking distance of one another in the vicinity. I decided to hop on my bike and check them out in a head-to-head sandwich-off.