Situated on an industrial corner in East Williamsburg, Falansai was a local Vietnamese staple for seven years, until the pandemic forced its owner, Henry Trieu, to close up shop.
But just a month later, Eric Tran — who had decamped northward to Blue Hill at Stone Barns after working as executive sous chef at Mission Chinese’s now-shuttered Manhattan location— had suddenly taken over the lease and reopened under the same name, quietly making his debut as a restaurant owner.
“I was working at an incredible job, great experience, amazing place, with health insurance,” Tran told Bushwick Daily, while standing in Falansai’s dining room, which he’s currently remodeling.
“But I took the risk with Falansai because this opportunity for me is something I never thought I’d have. And without COVID I would not be here, so I’m grateful.”
The new Falansai has yet to offer indoor dining — they opened takeout only, before graduating to outdoor dining.
In times where your outdoor dining choices are a gamble between claustrophobic closet-like booths or pedestrian handbags nearly toppling your drink over, the open air ambience of Falansai’s outdoor dining setup cannot be overstated. Equipped with large propane heaters, a tent, and a dreamy lily pad-clad koi pool, the fenced backyard feels like a world away from the grungy industrial streets that surround it.
Tran’s menu at Falansai dances lightheartedly through Vietnamese cuisine. Take the “fermented ginger hot sauce” that the menu suggests you oughta “grab extra to do naughty things with,” or the green curry that “brings all the boys to the yard.”
But the silliness doesn’t carry over to the food. Falansai practices whole animal butchery: whether it be smoked & grilled meats; or house-made charcuterie; or cured sausages. The careful selection is extended to their use of seasonal veggies, which Tran buys from local farmer’s markets and highlights in the menu’s spicy green curry and greenmarket fried rice. Let me tell you, it’s the best curry I’ve ever had.
Falansai particularly stands out, also, in its choice to offer just one type of pho on the menu: a grilled free-range chicken bathed in an aromatic fish sauce vinaigrette.
“Pho is actually traditionally eaten as a breakfast meal. It wasn’t until it’s popularity grew in America that we saw this change in how it’s offered,” Tran says. But Tran says he’s excited to convince customers to depart from pho and explore what other soups Vietnamese cuisine has to offer.
The bún bò huế is a mouth watering lamb soup, served on weekends with chả lụa (vietnamese mortadella), boudin noir and rice noodles. For more of a kick, Falansai’s red curry seafood soup is also exquisite, made with peanut milk, red curry, grilled squid and fresh mussels and served with a side of steamed broken rice.
The real delight, and one of my personal favorites, are the confit duck necks —a menu item that would be an injustice to let go unmentioned. You’ll have to get your hands dirty for this one, but the duck is tender, sweet, spicy, mouth-watering, and will fall right off the bone.
All photos by Erik Kantar for Bushwick Daily
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