Ian McNulty reviews one of Uptown's newest and hottest Vietnamese additions, Ba Chi Canteen, this week, suggesting that the inexpensive restaurant offers the best of a budding trend in New Orleans: "a taste of what happens when a Vietnamese chef stops trying to impress the grandparents with traditional recipes and instead starts exploring multicultural possibilities."
Chef/co-owner Phat Vu and the Ba Chi Canteen crew haven't put all memaws entirely on the shelf for now, with some dishes coming from their family's beloved West Bank restaurant Tanh Din. But McNulty points to the "one-of-a-kind creations" that "fold in bold Korean or subtle Thai flavors" and arrive with a stunning "artful presentation" as the true accomplishment here. And while the bao "bacos" (steamed bun tacos) are much talked about and on-trend with other new pho shops (Pho Bistreaux/upcoming Pho Orchid Express), McNulty prefers other interesting items like the Gyoza Nacho, "a baroque construction of Japanese dumplings, raw jalapeno, herbs, edamame salsa and streaks of honeyed Sriracha mayo."
Ba Chi Canteen is BYOB, with lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. 7900 Maple Street. (504) 373-5628. [Gambit]
Tom Fitzmorris doles out his average THREE WHOLE STARS to SoBou this week, unsure if the $$$$ restaurant from the Commander's Palace folks "represents either the vanguard of a new era in dining out or a phase we'll laugh at in 20 years." Either way, the fun vibe seems lost on T-Fitz, as he believes SoBou to be "decidedly pitched at younger, millennial customers, who seem as delighted by the freewheeling format as older people are puzzled by it."
So, it's a place that doesn't just put memaws on the shelf, but altogether replaces them with cool looking, empty bottles that illuminate the room, like millennials usually only can? Yes. The menu aims to impress the young folk with an avocado ice cream cone topped with tuna tartar, and cracklings you "need very good teeth to eat." What more, a wine-dispensing vending machine is built into the very wall. Curses be to such fountains of youth! Thankfully, a mature fellow like T-Fitz can escape into "a little-known private room" of SoBou's that may be "the most secretive place to eat in any New Orleans restaurant." Too bad there's no password to keep out those darn meddling kids.
T-Fitz claims "to eat best here, it helps to suspend culinary logic," or any logic at all, because even if "the bar chef is as prominent as the one in the kitchen," he strangely fails to mention either mixologist Abigail Gullo or chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez or their hefty credentials. Overall, "what remains is a selection of eats that could be easily understood by someone who has never eaten in a restaurant before," so bring Encino Man to translate, buddy. -1 HIPNESS POINTS because the hipness is actually so distracting, you must "watch your step leaving the restaurant" or be shamed by the irreverent millennials yet again. [CityBusiness, subscription required]
· Review: Ba Chi Canteen [Gambit]
· SoBou Bends Rules With Freewheeling Menu [CityBusiness, sub req]
· All Week In Reviews [-ENOLA-]