Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City
It doesn’t seem like there has been much innovation in the local Vietnamese food scene. I think our options haven been so limited for so long that when modern Vietnamese restaurants open, the most innovative thing to do is to go back to tradition. Places like Bun-ker and Hanoi House have recently opened (or re-opened) and for the most part, they focus on authenticity which is very exciting and mostly new for New York Vietnamese standards.
Lucy’s Vietnamese Kitchen also focuses on tradition, but there are a few flourishes that make it very exciting and dare I say, totally innovative.
This tiny storefront (only one small communal table) sits in a still-changing area of Bushwick. It’s named for the grandmother of the young American-Vietnamese chef who grew up in the neighborhood.
You might recognize the Vietnamese staples like banh mi and pho, but there a few differences to what you might expect.
Let’s focus on the amazing pho. The warming soup here is actually completely vegetarian (until you add the brisket, which I will get to in a minute). Instead of the usual beef bones, this version is just as earthy and dark with shiitake mushrooms as the base and lots of savory spices like cinnamon, star anise, and ginger. It’s light and complex. The springy rice noodles pick up those intense flavors.
Just in case you were worried I was going to write about two vegetarian dishes in a row, my recommendation is to get this soup topped with the 14 hour wood-smoked brisket. It’s a nod to American style barbecue. The beef has charred pepper edges and soft tasty fat nuggets. It’s an awesome spin on this somewhat traditional dish.
Leave it to the hipsters of Bushwick (along with traditional grandma recipes) to turn Vietnamese pho on its head. Imagine an all vegetarian stock with smoky Texas-like brisket in a tiny little Vietnamese shop. Innovation has arrived. Price: $12
|LUCY’S VIETNAMESE KITCHEN|
|262 Irving Avenue (between Bleecker Street and Menahan Street),