Tuesday, June 3, 2014

BEP: A New Vietnamese Restaurant

Things change so quickly here in Hong Kong.  One minute you have a favorite go-to restaurant, cafe or boutique.  The next week the aforesaid favorite has gone under, the windows are whitewashed, and a new for rent sign is in the window.  During the next month, plaster and wood chips are flying, dusty construction workers are smoking and dragging heavy machinery in and out, and voila, before you have had time to blink and realize it, a hot new thing has come to town.

Pizzeria Pubblico's mysterious disappearance happened overnight, but its replacement took a little longer than usual to secure.  For a few months (a retail lifetime in these parts), the lot sat empty and boarded up, forlorn and a sad reminder of my favorite pizza in Hong Kong (so of course it was the only one to vanish).  But then, slowly and then very quickly, life stirred and construction activity began, and in a matter of half a month a brand spanking new restaurant was up in its stead with a totally different layout and look.  Amazing.

Michael and I went there during their opening week to grab a quick bite, seeing as how it is just half a block away from out apartment.

BEP serves Vietnamese food at reasonable prices (for Central) and seems to provide a much more laid back, low key setting than Chom Chom, the flashy, hip and expensive Vietnamese restaurant that opened late last year in Soho.  
 When testing out a Vietnamese restaurant, the litmus test is the pho.  How flavorful is the broth? Is it too salty?  Is the anise flavor too strong?  How fresh is the meat?  How good are the noodles?  
 Seeing this contraption made me think of Hanoi with a pang.

Overall, I think BEP was okay - good food to grab in a hurry or when the craving hits.  I liked their pho - it was pretty hearty, the broth was flavorful and rich, and the condiments were fresh.   However, Michael thought their banh mi had way too much pate (it was cut in thick, thick slices) which overwhelmed the balance of the sandwich, and I thought their fusion version of bun cha was a disgrace (slices of celery?  carrots?  Bah!).

Update: my new review of BEP (significantly more positive!) here.

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