Pho and Banh Mi have long been the poster children for Vietnamese food around the world, and in Shanghai, it’s been no different. Menus might flirt with lesser-known characters but those two always take the feature roles. Now, a basement- level eatery in Lippo Plaza is shifting the spotlight.
It’s quiet late during dinner service on a Tuesday at Bun Cha Cha. No big surprise. This is B1 mall dining we’re talking about, but don’t let that turn you off. Bun Cha Cha breaks away from its surrounds as much as it can – a bright space with tile flooring, wicker-backed chairs and hints of French Indochina. It’s the backdrop for Danyi Gao’s love letter to classic Vietnamese grilled pork and noodle dish bun cha.
Bun cha (58RMB) takes front and centre on the menu by Gao (partner and chef behind funk and soul supper club Shake), and rightfully so. Piles of vermicelli noodles, mountains of green (basil, coriander, mint, perilla leaves, romaine lettuce) and juicy, grilled pork belly and meatballs – all to be dipped in bowls of fish sauce – arrive in abundance and feel like the next best thing to a flight to Hanoi. As an alternative, choose beef (68RMB), chicken (58RMB) or shrimp (68RMB) to top your vermicelli or go all in for an impressively sized bamboo tray heaped high with helpings for two to four (178RMB).
Beyond the bun, spread rounds of toasted baguette with rich pate gan ga (chicken liver pate, 38RMB) and chomp into crisp goi cuon (38RMB) with their rice paper wrappers wound tightly around plump
shrimp, pork, glass noodles and fistfuls of herbs.
On a less bright note, a forgettable pomelo salad (45RMB) lacks zing and the house pickles are regrettably memorable for an absence of crunch. Layers of ham, sausage and chicken liver pate valiantly attempt to bolster the Bahn Mi Saigon (68RMB) against an unfortunate dry and flavourless baguette. But these are missteps, not sins – and let’s be honest: we’re here for the bun cha anyways.
By Cat Nelson