Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bia: Vietnamese in Williamsburg

My roommate's friend recently alerted me to a new Vietnamese spot on the Southside of Williamsburg that opened earlier this summer.  The restaurant Bia, the Vietnamese word for beer, is a bit confused on different levels. 

First, it is housed in a former divey, roadhouse bar with soaring ceilings, exposed brick and country style wooden tables and benches.  Coupled with predominant Caucasian waitstaff and patrons, the vibe of this restaurant is essentially American...except it serves Vietnamese food and select dim sum dishes.  I guess this combination makes it quintessential hipster.

Bia offers only a handful of mains that vary from vermicelli noodle bowls, to oxtail stew, to coconut chicken curry (ca ri ga).

My friend and I ordered a couple of entrees and a few dim sum dishes to share as appetizers.  Here are the dishes in the order of their confused appearance from the kitchen:

Beef pho, presented as a pile of pho noodles centered in an amazingly clear beef broth with thin slices of raw beef round steak, brisket, raw onion and scallions.

Dressed up with some basil and lots of jalapeno slices.

Although I was impressed with the clarity of the broth, its depth of flavor was strongly lacking in the traditional pho notes, like star anise, cinnamon or ginger.  The noodles are better prepared than most spots in Chinatown, and the whole bowl, despite its overall inauthentic flavor (and overcooked beef), was still fairly comforting.  

My friend's vermicelli noodle bowl was small, with one grilled pork skewer and one quartered egg roll.  I think he was a bit disappointed in the dish, though it looked light and fine for a small summer meal.

The dim sum dishes arrived after our entrees, and I would not bother ordering these at all unless your life depended on it (then maybe I will excuse you).  There's nothing wrong with these dishes, but there's nothing really that great about them.  They're exactly what you could get at a traditional dim sum restaurant for over twice the cost.

Roast pork steamed bun.

Shrimp dumplings.

Snow pea dumplings (with shrimp).

I think the kitchen felt bad about messing up our meal, and they came out with some beef pastry pockets to curry some favor with us.  These were okay.

Were you bored reading this post?  It was kind of boring writing it.  It's one of those meals where nothing stood out, the flavors were generally good but not awe-invoking, and the only thing that was truly interesting was the space and clientele. The flavor of the whole meal was a bit more muted than it really should have been and can benefit from the use of more Asian ingredients.  Maybe this is a kink they will work out with more practice.

Fun fact: The bar / restaurant also has a rooftop area, and though food is not served upstairs yet, they are perfectly fine with the patrons taking their food up there themselves. Maybe the food will taste better with a view!

67 S 6th St
Brooklyn, NY
Bia Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon


  1. sad it wasn't delicious! the snow pea dumplings are just so cute...

  2. i wanted to tell you about this place, but after taking one look at the menu, i thought the better of it. I couldn't risk going and getting my vietnamese food loving heart phoking destroyed. pardon my french :X

  3. Ha. I love "it was kind of boring writing it", because yes, I was like, "Wow, this is the least inspired writing I've ever seen from this woman." There are so many times I want to write, "This was okay," under every dish from a restaurant. Meh.