After an excellent three week adventure at UCLA, I was ready to get back into the world of food. While I did enjoy the burgers, fries, and pizza offered to us each and every day in the schools cafeteria, it felt good to be treated to something different. After stepping off the plane into hot, humid New York, my family and I made the ultimate decision to head to Bún-ker Vietnamese Restaurant (http://bunkervietnamese.com, 46-63 Metropolitan Ave Ridgewood, New York 11385). Bún-ker dishes out authentic Vietnamese Street Food with their own alternative spin.
As I entered into Bún-ker, I felt ambushed on all five of my senses. The smell of steaming, spicy fried rice cooking and crisping, the pots and pans clashing together like a poorly prepared marching band, the dark, smooth wood that surrounded every inch of the quirky interior of Bún-ker, I didn’t think like could get any better — that thought was shattered when I tasted my first bite of food at Bún-ker.
To start off our eating excursion, we ordered three appetizers (Crab Spring Rolls, Summer Rolls, Traditional Banh Xeo).
As the the Crab Spring Rolls moved towards our table, it seemed as though the a golden sun had set directly in front of us. The golden-brown hue of the fried spring rolls brought our eyes close to the dish, and as the aromatic steam poured out of each roll, our noses brought us even closer together. The Spring Rolls were abundant with warm sautéed veggies and a hefty helping of shredded tender crab.
Summer Rolls are definitely not my absolute favorite Vietnamese Dish, but when done correctly can truly highlight a meal. The Summer Rolls at Bún-ker were perfect. The light airy, earthy rolls were melded the ideal portions of warm, succulent, moist morsels of shrimp and pork and absorbent, tangled, branch-like vermicelli noodles. The rolls were served with a customary peanut sauce and wrapped in a sticky, thin rice wrap and served to the customer.
The Traditional Banh Xeo was to die for. Banh Xeo is sort of like a Vietnamese crepe fried until the color resembles that of the fur of a leopard and stuffed to the gills with juicy shrimp, a smattering of toothsome bacon, crumbly scrambled egg, watery, snappy bean sprouts, and intense green lettuce leaves. Delicious!
For our main courses, we ordered three items (Suon Nuong Xa, Grilled Lemongrass Black Angus Short Rib, and Cha Ca La Vong).
Although Bún-ker is renowned for many dishes, the one that brings it the most fame is the Suon Nuong Xa. Suon Nuong Xa is made up of wonderfully seasoned, hot, juice-filled grilled lemongrass pork loin, accompanied by a lightly seared sunny side up egg with a runny yoke, and a hefty sum of spicy, sticky Garlic Tomato Fried Rice.
The Garlic Tomato Fried Rice was fabulous. With such an odd blend of flavors coming together in a rice dish, one would think the meal would be over-powered with a certain taste, but it was completely the opposite. The rustic tomato and powerful garlic intertwined to create a marvelous flavor-mixture that was able to truly elevate the taste of any normal fried rice.
If you think about it, what could possibly go wrong with Short Ribs? The Grilled Lemongrass Black Angus Short Ribs from Bún-ker were wonderful. The charred, crispy, blackened outside revealed a tender, salty, shiny inside with every bite of the dish. The mounds of shredded beef lay peacefully amongst a medley of dressed twirly vermicelli noises and a light dusting of meal-binding peanuts. My mouth was in heaven…
Our final entree was Cha Ca La Vong. Cha Ca La Vong is spongy, moist wild blue catfish breaded in a blend of crispy bread crumbs, spicy ginger, and robust turmeric, and served in a steaming, hot crunchy pile with the classic Vietnamese street food accompanying base of stringy dill, curly vermicelli noodles, and crumbly peanuts. The Cha Ca La Vong was perhaps one of the best catfish dishes I have ever sunk my teeth into (and that is coming from a true catfish connoisseur).
On the side were ordered a sautéed Baby Bok. There was nothing to special about the Sautéed Baby Bok Choi but it’s palate-cleansing taste allowed us to continue eating our way through the menu at Bún-ker!
To wash down our tremendous meal, we ordered Triple Brewed Vietnamese Ice Coffee and Homemade Limeade. The two drinks were utterly refreshing after long plane ride, and were perfect way to cleanse ones palate between bites of different dishes.
At last it was time for dessert. My mother made the decision to order Coconut Tapioca Pudding. As I delved my spoon into the gelatinous, snot-like treat my stomach seemed to cringe in disgust. I raised the jiggly glob to my mouth and immediately took a deep whiff of the coconut flavors. I proceeded to place the pudding in mouth and swallowed as soon as I could. The consistency of the dessert reminded me to that of an oyster! I do think my mother enjoyed the pudding, so maybe it is an acquired taste.
The atmosphere at Bún-ker was truly unique and if you don’t see that crazy alternative ambience when you walk into the restaurant, take a trip to the bathroom and you will surely see what I mean!
Overall Bún-ker was amazing (but a tad expensive due to the high quality of their ingredients) and I would truly recommend taking the trip from JFK after a tiring flight. I would give it ZZZZV- 4 1/2 Z’s- Wow!