Tag Archives: Bún-ker Vietnamese

Guy Fieri’s ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ stops by Queens Comfort


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Donnie D’Alessio/Queens Comfort

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” drove into the borough to film an episode at Astoria‘s Queens Comfort.

The Food Network show, hosted by colorful television personality, cookbook author and restaurateur Guy Fieri, follows him as he visits “classic ‘greasy spoon’ spots” around North America.

Queens Comfort owner Donnie D’Alessio, already a fan of the program, was “honored” when “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” contacted him a couple of months ago for an initial interview.

“For us to pop up in their research, it was so rewarding,” said D’Alessio.

“A lot of the food they showcase is very unique and it’s something that we pride ourselves on here,” he said about the 30th Avenue restaurant.

After making the cut, the show came to shoot at Queens Comfort for two days last week.

Though the filming took a lot of work, including shutting down the restaurant, preparing eight dishes, and remaking some of the food several times over, it was well worth it, said D’Alessio.

“I got along with him really well. He was fun to hang out with,” he said about meeting Fieri.

D’Alessio does not know when the episode featuring Queens Comfort will air yet, but no matter what exposure it may lead to, the experience is what was the most important.

“It all felt like a dream. I felt like Dorothy for two days,” he said.

Queens Comfort isn’t the only eatery in the borough “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” recently visited.

The show also filmed at Bun-Ker Vietnamese, located at 46-63 Metropolitan Ave. in Ridgewood, according to the restaurant.

 

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The restaurant Sandy built


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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It is only a spring roll, but I have somehow rapidly devoured three of these crispy golden fingers before realizing I have yet to dunk one into the accompanying chili sauce. The delicate wrapper crackles and gives way to a steaming center of al dente glass noodles, tiny slivers of carrot and sweet lumps of fresh crabmeat. A spring roll this delicious can really heighten your awareness of just how monotonous most other renditions can be. I am already grinning, and this is just the first course.

The quality of food at Bún-ker Vietnamese is beyond surprising. The first syllable is the Vietnamese word for vermicelli (pronounced boon), while the restaurant’s full name is a play on its bunker-like location.

Chef Jimmy Tu said the space was initially a boutique seafood distribution site. Tu previously opened Manhattan’s famed Eleven Madison Park, where he also cooked for two years.

Since he originally intended Bún-ker to be a storage space, he said “the location really didn’t matter.”

He added that cheap rent was why he chose the location.
Sandy saw things a little differently. The storm put the distribution center out of business for almost a month. Facing major damage and with no flood insurance, Tu and his partners — including younger brother Jacky, who is also the sous-chef — decided to close the distribution business and open Bún-ker in its place in January.

With gingham tablecloths, buckets of utensils on each table and a bamboo and straw thatched ceiling, the tiny dining room daily buzzes with locals clustered around tightly packed private and communal tables.


The draw here is simple: excellent Vietnamese cuisine. After leaving the fine dining industry, Tu spent a month and a half studying street food, befriending local establishments throughout Vietnam and

Thailand and studying their recipes and techniques.

“Noodles are a really big street food in Vietnam,” Tu explained, “We also use a Japanese grill with realcharcoal, because out in Vietnam, it’s all charcoal, which definitely adds to the flavor.”

It’s “street food made with a lot of love,” Tu added with a smile.

Take, for instance, the Saigon Special Banh Mi. It is a flaky baguette stuffed with five-spice pâté made in-house as well as steamed pork shoulder ground with cinnamon, sugar and fish sauce. The sandwich also has garlic sausage, and it’s all garnished with pickled vegetables, mayo, cilantro, jalapeno and a ribbon of sriracha hot sauce.

The Pho Ga is an intense chicken noodle soup consisting of smoked shallot broth with bobo chicken. The kitchen develops it over eight hours.

Even simple plates explode with flavors carefully cultivated in the kitchen — tomato garlic fried rice and creamed taro leaves like collard greens with a hint of curry, ginger and garlic.

Drinks are limited to a cooler where customers serve themselves water. You can also order artichoke kefir iced tea or Vietnamese black coffee. Next week, the restaurant plans to introduce several homemade soft drinks including flavors like lime ginger mint, tamarind and chili lychee.

Until then, plan on cooling your palate with a bowl of coconut tapioca pudding whose tender pearls are studded with slivers of young coconut, pineapple, star fruit and palm seeds.

Sounds simple? It is simply delicious.

Bún-ker Vietnamese
46-63 Metropolitan Avenue, Ridgewood
718-386-4282
Tuesdays & Wednesdays 5 – 10 p.m.
Thursdays & Fridays 5 – 11 p.m.
Saturday noon – 11 p.m.
Sunday noon – 10 p.m.

BY BRADLEY HAWKS

 

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