In the middle of nowhere, east of East Williamsburg, officially Ridgewood but not really, near the terminus of the Newtown Creek, across the road from an auto salvage yard and just up the road from the NYC Transit Authority is Bun-ker Vietnamese Restaurant, the new center of my universe.
The place is tacky enough to be incredibly real as only a restaurant started on a shoestring by two brothers can be. (The out of the way location was to have been a seafood distribution center, but Sandy put an end to that dream.) The walls are covered with bamboo covered wainscoting, little toy soldiers line the window trim and utensils are in aluminum cans on the vinyl tablecloth covered tables, whose benches are made from skateboards and other found wood. If you want filtered water you are welcome to get up and get it yourself from the big orange cooler on the table by the door.
The message is clear – this place is not about the decor. It’s about the food.
And that food is incredible.
Enough said – here’s what we ate –
Crab chips – spicy, light and perfectly accompanied by lime aid with Chia seeds.
Summer Rolls – Shrimp, Pork and Vermicelli. Light, delicious, with fresh basil and a great dipping sauce.
Grilled Eggplant with Vermicelli, basil, peanuts, cucumber and roast tomatoes with a light rice wine-fish sauce dressing. Even I, the eggplant non-lover, loved it.
Coconut braised Duroc short ribs. (Duroc are a breed of pigs, and these were antibiotic-free, pasture and humanely raised.) Literally falling off the bone.
Tomato Fried Rice – The perfectly softened garlic clove alone would have been enough.
Ca Ri Ga. The best chicken curry OF MY LIFE, made with lemongrass and coconut, potatoes, and carrots and served with perfectly cooked Roti pancakes for mopping up the sauce.
Total tab including tip for this, two lime aids and two vietnames Iced Coffees was $92, which fed 5 of us with ribs leftover to take home.
There were so many dishes we wanted to try but did not – Lemongrass heritage pork loin with fried egg and rice, Banh Mi sandwiches, and the seared turmeric organic salmon just to name a few…
As we were leaving, past the line of patrons standing outside in the rain waiting for a table, Mason was scheming how she would get back for lunch tomorrow. Unfortunately, Mason,Bun-Ker is only open for dinner during the week, but does serve lunch on weekends.
To get there? I’d say take the L to Jefferson St and take a nice long walk down Flushing Ave to Metropolitan. (Or come with us next time we drive there.)
Arrive early if you want to get a table without a long wait.