When Berlu owner Vince Nguyen first ate the Vietnamese street food bánh tráng nướng, a charcoal-grilled rice cracker topped with egg and other condiments, the fine dining chef said it was the best thing he had ever eaten. “I’d make it in the summers on a gas grill, but if you do it on a charcoal grill, it’s like 10 times better,” he says. “It’s really good and it’s not very common — I haven’t seen it here.”
Starting tomorrow, Portlanders will be able to find bánh tráng nướng at Nguyen’s restaurant, when he transforms the window at Berlu into something like a night market stall. From 5 to 7 p.m. on Fridays, Berlu will start selling Vietnamese street foods to eat on the benches outside the restaurant, including bánh tráng nướng and a mung bean jelly chè with fruit, palm sugar, and coconut cream.
Over the last year, Nguyen has regularly grilled, baked, steamed, and simmered various Vietnamese dishes to sell out of the restaurant, be it a pre-ordered Vietnamese soup or a slice of springy bánh bò nướng. Berlu’s weekend bakery pop-up has been the real mainstay, where the chef sells slabs of chả trứng, an eggy Vietnamese meatloaf, alongside pretty fruit tarts, egg tarts, rolled cakes, pandan waffles, and rice flour pastries. But now that the weather is warming up, Nguyen wants to take advantage of the picturesque courtyard — and its benches — right outside the restaurant. “The number of outdoor dining options are increasing, and people are going to get sick of takeout,” he says. “Everything that we’re making you can eat with your hands, you can even stand or sit and eat.”
Every Friday, the restaurant will sell two types of bánh tráng nướng: A version with organic eggs, Lan-Roc ground pork belly, and Oregon-caught bay shrimp dried in-house, as well as a vegan version with tofu, veggies, and chili sauce. Other dishes will rotate, ranging from bò lá lốt, or grilled beef meatballs wrapped in betel leaves, to bánh nậm, dumplings with ground pork and shrimp steamed in banana leaves. And most weekends, there will be chè. “I grew up eating it; it was one of the few Vietnamese things I would eat,” he says. “People have been asking me to do that since I started (the bakery).” Another sweet on offer this Friday: chocolate-strawberry baby cakes, a collaboration with Vivienne baker Emily Sablosky; the baby cakes will be available at both Berlu and Vivienne, and the proceeds will go to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon.
Berlu will begin taking walk-up orders tomorrow, May 14; items will range from $5 to $10.
• Berlu [Official]
• The Team Behind Fine Dining Spot Berlu Will Open a Vietnamese Bakery Tomorrow [EPDX]
• Previous Berlu coverage [EPDX]