COCONUTS CRITIC’S TABLE — There’s something so refreshing about Vietnamese food, it’s just a like a breath of fresh air.
With all the greasy gorengan that Indonesia has to offer, there’s nothing like the fresh herbs and veggies of old Saigon to give our palates a little cleanse. (Don’t get us wrong, we love gorengan, but our arteries can only handle it six out of seven days of the week, or something like that.)
Which is why after seeing a steady stream of picture perfect Instagram posts of Seminyak’s newest Vietnamese eatery, Bo & Bun, we knew we had to investigate for ourselves.
It’s just after eight on a Thursday night, and the three of us roll into the Jl. Raya Basangakasa spot.
Not gonna lie, the little place isn’t anything out of this world as it has the same hip vibes of a lot of cafes and restaurants in the Seminyak area with its stonewashed walls and painted-to-look antique furniture, but we felt totally at ease.
Until we sat down on the half-booth half-table. You know that awkward feeling when the back of your seat is higher than the front and you feel like you’re sliding forward, so you have to engage your thigh muscles to brace yourself? Yup. Meanwhile, the backrest is a tad too stiff and flat, pushing your back out, too upright. All the people, sitting on this slanted booth must be pretending to be comfortable, my friend joked.
But let’s get down to the food, the real reason that brought us to Bo & Bun anyway. After moving to a table towards the front of the indoor area, with our thighs fully relaxed, we immediately knew we’d be ordering some Vietnamese iced coffees to go around. Who cares that it was late on a week night and the last thing we needed was a caffeine kick? Caffeine kick, or no, that sweetened condensed milk mixed in black sludgy coffee totally hit the spot.
Bo & Bun boasts coffee imported straight from Vietnam
True to its short and snappy monosyllabic name, Bo & Bun keeps its menu simple and easy to navigate, broken down into Bites to Share, The “Bun,” Bo & Braises, Salads, From the Wok and The Grilled.
We were hungry and wanted to try it all, so we went for the sharing plate to start, which when served, the waiter was very careful to let us know what was what and which sauce went with which bite.
Except for the bulgogi fries, you basically get to try all the appetizers off the menu with the sharing plate: Bao Gao pork belly, pandan chicken, spring roll, fresh Vietnamese rice paper roll, AND Korean fried chicken. Not a bad spread at all, but beware, it’s halves of everything, so if your party is more than two, you will have a hard time splitting up these small bites into smaller pieces or deciding what to try and what to forego so everybody gets their own half of something.
The “Try Everything” sampler plate
Finger lickin’ good KFC: Korean fried chicken
Was everything on that plate the Vietnamese grub we had been craving? Certainly not. But we had no complaints and even though the fried spring roll has been done so many times, the one at Bo & Bun is crispy, not too oily, and tasty AF. The fresh Vietnamese spring roll was like biting into a luscious herb garden, the pork belly made us thankful to be in Hindu Bali where we could enjoy our pork bliss without the halal guilt, and the Korean fried chicken wings were crackly skinned, sticky, and sweet n’ spicy. But really, for us the pandan chicken was the star of the starters show, juicy, savory, and flavor-filled.
With our appetites fully warmed up and ready to go from this sampler plate, we didn’t have to wait long at all for our mains to arrive—they came almost the instant we finished the appetizer.
We’ve got to hand it to the wait staff at Bo & Bun, they are extremely attentive and ready to keep feeding you until you hit the floor.
Plating was simple and elegant with clean plates, arranged neatly. The special that day was special indeed, a Vietnamese salad with “18 hour” pork bites: glass noodles and a fresh crisp array of herbs, bean sprouts, lettuce, cucumbers, those to die for spring rolls, peanuts, and tangy nuoc cham dressing. Yum.
The Vietnamese salad, as fresh as it gets
While one friend got the Vietnamese salad with lemongrass pork, which was pretty much identical (just some added lemongrass zing on the meat and maybe a bit less succulent), another friend ordered the chicken and cashews.
His verdict: good hangover food, as it was greasy and had a nice little chili bite. But once again, not so Vietnamese. After this, we decided to label this place as highlights of Vietnam, with Asia’s greatest hits.
Kenyang, but not too full for dessert, we couldn’t wait to see what kind of Asian fusion delights were to be had at Bo & Bun, so we asked to see the menu again to get some sweets on our table. To be honest, the dessert selection was limited and unimpressive with nothing too memorable or tempting (something about stacked fruits and grilled banana), so we opted for some coconut gelato, which was light, refreshing, and cutely presented.
(Note: After going home and Instagram stalking Bo & Bun, it appears we had a different variety of the dessert menu, with the special one we missed comprising of toasted coconut and pandan creme brûlée and green tea tiramisu. Major bummer, but reason enough to go back for a coffee and a dessert.)
When we got the bill, there were no surprises. Overall, the portion to price ration is reasonable and you get what you pay for—which is saying something, since too many times in Kuta/Seminyak, we feel we toss out so much money for tiny plates.
We would have loved to try the “12 hour pho,” but that seemed like it would have been more appropriate for a dreary and chilly day in the thick of rainy season, and the banh mi was tempting, but sandwiches speak lunch to us.
Guess we’ll just have to pay Bo & Bun another visit.
Coconuts Critic’s Table reviews are written based on unannounced visits by our writers and paid for by Coconuts Media.
Bo & Bun
Jl. Raya Basangkasa no. 26
Photos at the top: Instagram @boandbun