The proprietors of popular Ridgewood Vietnamese restaurant Bun-Ker are gearing up to open a new restaurant in a large industrial space at 99 Scott Ave. in Bushwick-East Williamsburg. Chef/owner Jimmy Tu, 39, tells Eater that his team will take advantage of the larger space by offering an expanded menu of traditional Vietnamese food, a cocktail menu inspired by the tropical fruits of Vietnam, and a cold-pressed juice bar. The small kitchen of the current location, whose dining room seats just 24 people, is limiting, he says. The new space will be larger, seating about 70 people. “There was always a bunch of items that I wanted on this menu, but I couldn’t because of the space and the kitchen and the size of our restaurant,” Tu says. “I’m excited to be able to showcase that [in the new location].”
Favorites from the past will be returning to the new menu. Several items, like banh mi and beef pho, were taken off the menu because Tu couldn’t meet high demand in the Ridgewood kitchen. A variety of specials from the past will also see a more permanent place on the menu, as will a few completely new items, Tu says. Expect grilled pork, pork sausage, more spring rolls, oxtail in pho, and a tumeric catfish that’s pan fried rather than deep fried, Tu says. Plus, the new location will have a cold-pressed juice bar. It may sound like a trendy addition, but Tu says in Vietnam, it’s common for meals to be accompanied by a fresh watermelon juice or avocado shake. “I’ve always loved that,” he says. “It completes your meal.” A new cocktail menu will take inspiration from the juice bar and fruits common to Vietnamese cuisine, with use of watermelon, sugar cane, coconut, and tamarind juice, he adds.
The original restaurant is a good 15 minute walk from the L train, on a street devoid of anywhere to hang out while waiting for a table in the tiny dining room. Tu says he has been approached several times with offers to open up elsewhere, including in Manhattan, but nothing was quite the right fit. He felt good about debuting a spot close to his current location, and neighbors, like an event space and winery Enlightenment Wines helped make the decision easier, he says. Construction is expected to start in the next month. “It’s going to be street. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be laid back,” Tu says.