Bui is a contemporary Vietnamese restaurant in North Berkeley on Solano Avenue, next to the where the best sushi place in the East Bay, Sushi Sho, was (it’s coming back soon!). That place is now a Nepalese/Indian restaurant.
I went for the first time this evening with a friend. The place was mostly empty when we arrived at around 6:45p. A few other diners came in as the evening went on, but they never were very full. Simple, contemporary ambiance. Our table was by the open window, which brought in some of the nice, refreshing summer evening. Service was pretty good – the waiter was fairly attentive and friendly, though my entree was brought out before we finished our appetizer. Partially forgivable since I ordered a fried fish dish which should be eaten immediately, but it would have been nice if they’d timed things a bit better.
My friend and I split what was a decent-sized order of the Saigon wings, which are fried chicken wing sections in a sweet chili sauce with garlic and fried basil. Very tasty. I would have been interested to see if a light brine would have helped give it a bit more flavor.
For the entree, I had the pan-fried whole red snapper special, which was served with the fillets stacked on top of a bed of spinach and brown rice, with the rest of the fish on the side. The fish was good, and pretty well cooked, but the rice was drenched in a sweet sauce. After the sweet wings, it was just too unbalanced. My friend had the clay pot Chilean sea bass, which he said was good, but again, came in a sweet sauce. I wish the waiter had said something.
Compounding this, I’d carelessly picked a rosé to go with my meal – it was a warm summer’s day and I was about to have some fried fish. Had I known, I would have gone with a drier wine, maybe the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc they offered.
Aside from the sweetness problem, the meal was pretty good. We didn’t need dessert, though, after all that sugar. There wasn’t anything inspiring on the desert menu anyhow (tiramisu, creme brulee, flan?). I’d probably come back to check out other things on their menu. Perhaps their lunch menu, which has pho and rice plates. Price-wise, Bui is on the somewhat pricer end of the scale, with appetizers around $8 and entrees running around $15.
Recommended with reservations.