BEP Vietnamese Kitchen Brunch Pop-Up Begins This Sunday at Franco on Melrose
Chef Connie Tran begins her brunch pop-up this Sunday, April 21st at Franco on Melrose. The bi-weekly brunch has one seating at 11:30 a.m. I was invited to a special preview and experienced the 8 wonderful courses first-hand.
BEP means kitchen in Vietnamese and this pop-up showcases the homecooked food of Chef Connie’s family’s kitchen. She explained often you would be served a multitude of items and rice was always prominent. You would have your water dish — in this case, the porridge, the savory, the sweet and rice. Plenty of rice.
Chef Connie comes from a background of cooking various Asian cuisines but most recently was working at Zov’s in Tustin which features Mediterranean cuisine. Owner Zov Karamardian sits on the board of the James Beard Foundation and took Connie with her to cook in New York. Connie also has a masters in East Asian Literature. I found it fascinating she wrote her thesis on “Restaurants as Expressions of Ethnic Communities in the Larger, American Landscape.”
It reminds me a bit of my own family and many immigrant families where many start restaurants when they can’t find their own familiar cuisines in their new homelands. Connie and her mother had a restaurant named Cafe D’Orient which was funny as my dad had named a dim sum restaurant in Alhambra Casa D’Oriente. I probably should have asked if they were open around the same time.
We began our meal with spiced boiled peanuts. Like edamame, I found it easier to eat the peanuts by sucking the morsels out and getting the flavors that way.
Next came the rice porridge near and dear to many Asian cuisines. I liked the Vietnamese version with purple perilla leaf. Also featured were a poached egg, lardon crisps and sage brown butter. It made a warming dish to savor.
To lighten things up, we also had a starfruit salad. The Bibb lettuce was simply dressed and the burrata certainly added an unexpected but not out of place element.
If you caught my recent post on Vietnamese 7-courses of beef, you may be familiar with the betel-leaf wrapped grilled beef. Rather than the solid rice paper wrap I had before, this and the turmeric catfish was served with little vermicelli cakes and sesame crackers. You can eat it however you like but I liked wrapping the protein with additional herbs that were provided with the vermicelli cakes and then dipping the whole thing in nuoc cham, a sauce of fish sauce, chili and lime. The sesame crackers were great for an extra crunch.
One bite or two? Messy but fun eating. I loved both the beef and the catfish but the catfish was my favorite to wrap up. I should ask Connie if she can do an 8-courses of fish meal.
Next we had the dishes to go with the jasmine rice. I always love eggplant cooked in Asian styles. This simple dish with roasted corn was really good.
I was starting to get full but I was really curious about the thit kho, a dish I learned to love from Starry Kitchen (a note from them said they loved Chef Connie and what she was doing with her pop-up).
It turns out this was my favorite dish after the turmeric catfish. I loved the addition of crunch bean sprouts, quail eggs and the bits of BEP picklings. I began to regret being so glutinous with the vermicelli cakes earlier.
The perfect bowl of rice.
And is that okra with the shrimp? Sure is! Connie had explained there might be a side dish of veggies but a lot of the proteins were served with produce as well. I enjoyed this almost contemporary (American) Southern dish.
We enjoyed the refreshing beverages as well. If you like it a bit sweeter, try the chrysanthemum mint tea. Or if you like sour/ savory, try the pickled plum soda. For the pop-up, you may also BYOB (beer and wine only). Suggestions are provided on the BEP Facebook page.
For dessert we were supposed to have coconut gelato sandwiches but the ice cream melted. She quickly created a coconut glaze to go over the chili sesame cookies.
I particularly enjoyed the kabocha squash pudding with Vietnamese yogurt and peanut brittle. It wasn’t too sweet and was a nice way to end the brunch.
Here’s a sneak peak at the menu for May 6. Spam sliders on Hawaiian sweet rolls with quail egg! For extra umami, add a squirt or two of Maggi sauce.
Chef Connie also plans to sell kits you can make your own pho and coffee kits at the pop-up. And she’s found a non-GMO soy vendor so fresh soy milk will also be available soon.
This was a fun, different brunch. The plan for now is to go on indefinitely until a permanent space can be found. I’m confident it’s only a matter of time so get to the pop-up while you can.
BEP Kitchen Brunch Pop-Up Every Other Sunday Beginning April 21
One Seating Only at 11:30 AM
$37 per person, 8 courses + non-alcoholic beverages
BYOB (beer and wine only)
6919 Melrose Ave
Hollywood, CA 90038
Reservations via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
© The Minty 2013
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