Bunker is one of those restaurants you'll read about, are intrigued by, look at the address and think, "Yeah, maybe sometime I'll get over there and try that," but you never will because who knows where Ridgewood, Queens is, and the map looked like Bushwick, but whatever it is, it's outside of Manhattan, so it's going to be a bit of a hike.
And so I figured a birthday celebration would be great enough excuse to get everyone to venture out to this funky part of New York to check summa this shit out.
The place opens at 5:30p. Most of the gang arrived by 6, and with a party of 9, we waited about an hour for seating. The air was nice. We marveled at the size of the Western Beef. Remarked about each of our modes of transit to reach this lovely destination.
Somewhere between 5:30 and 7p, the place runs out of pork. It's probably one of the saddest things I have ever heard. "Rest assured," our server tells us, "the rest of the menu is great too." So we tried out most of it.
Spring rolls were fat, and full of veggies and shrimp, but came only 2 small pieces to an order for $6.
The banh xeo was crispy and had authentic flavor, like a fat taco filled with ham, shrimp and bean sprouts.
The crepe is actually a bit thicker than it should be, and a bit greasy, but otherwise pretty well done.
The shrimp chips were delicate and lightly dusted with a savory, tasty spice.
Thit bo luc lac ("shaking beef") was fairly standard - a handful of fat, fairly tender chunks, lightly marinated, and topped with fried onions. Squeeze the lime all over it, and chow it down with some rice.
The massaman curry short ribs were fine - with tender meat and potatoes, though the flavors were more reminiscent of Thai than Vietnamese.
The pho ga was pretty steep at $9, but had clear broth and plenty of strips of chicken. Pho flavors like star anise and cinnamon were lacking though, and the broth was salty.
Tomato garlic rice ended up tasting exactly like it sounds and looks, but with lots more garlic than expected - pretty good.
And finally the coconut tapioca was creamy and far too rich for anyone to really finish a whole small bowl - share at best, or skip altogether.
I really wanted to like Bunker. With all my heart and all the glowing Yelp reviews about it, but maybe it's because there's nothing else to eat in the heart of warehouse central, and maybe because New Yorkers just haven't had good Vietnamese, it's definitely overhyped, and I just didn't like it that much.
Han's Nonsensical Rating: It's fine, but it's not great. (It's not really worth the trip.)
Ridgewood, NY 11385