By Ava Stryker-Robbins
The restaurant Bánh serves a variety of Vietnamese dishes: a tasty cuisine less common on the Upper West Side than other East Asian staples. One of these is the delicious Bún Bò Bơ, which features tender, savory butter beef that carries hints of lemongrass flavor. At Bánh, the dish is served with a salty sauce that adds additional flavors that blend together. The beef is placed over a bed of noodles and is served with fresh salad, making it refreshing, comforting, filling, and inherently healthy.
According to a WSR interview with John Nguyen, Bánh’s co-owner and operating manager, the butter beef is normally served family style in very large portions, but Bánh decided to serve it inside a noodle salad bowl “to make it easier for people to enjoy if they just wanted it for themselves.” This dish has been served since Bánh opened, but was originally served with all the same components in a spring roll instead of as a bowl. Nguyen states that this is one of Bánh’s most popular dishes: “We’re happy that people like it.”
Bánh opened on the Upper West Side in October 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. It was co-founded by John Nguyen and Nhu Ton — the restaurant’s chef and co-owner. The pair already had a Vietnamese restaurant in the Bronx called Com Tam Ninh Kieu, and were initially nervous about opening a new restaurant as the pandemic was causing so many others to close. However, Bánh has been very well received. Nguyen says they wanted to open this restaurant on the Upper West Side because it was “a neighborhood that needed a good Vietnamese restaurant.”
Ton developed her expertise by spending years traveling around Vietnam and learning about different regional dishes, and then by working at Vietnamese restaurants in New York City, where she combined her education and experiences with each chef to create her own unique style. Nguyen states that since college, he has wanted to work in the restaurant industry: “I really enjoy having a place that people like to come to…people want to come spend their time here.” The dishes from Bánh are mostly inspired by dishes from Hanoi, but Ton also brings her central Vietnamese hometown dishes to the menu. The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating.
Ngyuen concluded the interview by stating, “It’s what drives us. Sharing our food and our culture and also pushing Vietnamese food forward…we like to create and introduce a lot of different dishes that maybe most aren’t that familiar with.”
The Bún Bò Bơ costs $16.95.
The Dish: Bún Bò Bơ
The Restaurant: Bánh (942 Amsterdam Avenue between 106th and 107th Streets)