154 Orchard St, New York, NY | Directions 1000240.720858 -73.988725
Neighborhoods: Lower East Side, Downtown
Charming Speakeasy Vietnamese Outpost – If you walked pass this place, you’d not have guessed that there’s actually a restaurant behind its tiny hole-in-the-wall façade. That’s because the kitchen is all you see when you come in the entrance. The maître’d told me that you have to make reservations to dine here before 10pm, which we did luckily. Upon checking in, you are led through a little passageway next to the kitchen to what feels like someone’s big backyard garden with tables and chairs and birdcage lanterns hanging everywhere. It’s very cute, especially for a date and I really liked the casual atmosphere. Seems like it could be a fun outing with a small group of buddies too. But when you look around and notice that everyone dining at this Vietnamese secret outpost is non Asian except our table, you get a feeling that the food may not be as authentic as you’d like. To me as a rule of thumb, that’s okay as long as the food still tastes good or is somewhat inventive and unique.
We ordered 2 small plates and 2 big plates and a couple of beers from Vietnam (Saigon was the best, forget the ale). The Green Papaya Salad with steamed shrimp had a refreshing minty sweetness to it that was well balanced by the tartness of the lime dressing. The Crispy Berkshire Pork Belly appetizer had a tasty caramel pepper sauce to it though not quite crispy enough; yet this was the better dish of the night. The Claypot Fish Market dish was a bit too salty and disappointing. We barely finished half of it. Finally, the Shaking Beef with spicy cress, red onion, and mustard vinaigrette was just alright. I thought the portions (which was a good size) and price tag were similar to that at the new Momofuku Ma Peche, where I later dined at that same weekend.
At the end of the day, you realize that most of the time, unless the service is horrendous, it’s the company that really makes the dining experience even though the food is nothing to shout about. On the way out, we bumped into Mr. Bao himself at the narrow hallway where I barely muttered a shy ‘Hi’ with a half smile. In that split second in my head, I congratulated him on dominating the Bahn Mi Sandwich world, and told him how huge a Baoguette fan I was. And as an afterthought, I wanted to tell him to bring Pho back to Bia Garden’s menu and dominate that world too.
Great Place To Chill and De-stress With Friends – If you are looking for a wonderfully light, airy place that is casually inviting with excellent Asian cuisine you should try Bia. It's perfect for a small gathering or even a fun place for a dinner date. The Asian beer seletion is excellent and the six-pack in a bucket is an excellent concept of eliminating the need to keep calling for another round of drinks. The food selection has variety and you can keep sampling small plates all night. So far I haven't been disappointed the twice I've been here. Get there early because the place is small (cozy) and fills up quickly.
Vietnamese food plus beers from Laos to India. – The owner of Bia Garden already oversees a mini empire of banh mi shops. But judging from this long-awaited Lower East Side spot, there’s plenty of chef/entrepreneur Michael “Bao” Hyunh to go around. The bar's main seating area is a spacious back garden, peppered with design accents like antique birdcages (converted into hanging lanterns by Hyunh’s partner, who designs lighting for the likes of David Bouley) and lush bamboo. Although the hidden aspect of the garden--reachable by way of a “bia” (beer) cooler--is alluring, Hyunh’s scrumptious food is the main attraction. The tamarind lobster, shaking beef and any of the fresh, floral summer rolls stuffed with mint and basil are all worth trying.
Southeast Asian street food meets German brews – A Lower East Side beer garden focused on Vietnamese cuisine.
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