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Bunker’s destination-restaurant status is due in no small part to its oasis-in-a-culinary-desert location on an industrial stretch of Queens that’s either Maspeth or Ridgewood, depending whom you ask. (We’ll go by the joint’s business card.) But the designation owes just as much to its quasi-tropical, slapdash charm; prices that top out at $25; and grub so mind-bogglingly, bowl-scrapingly good you’ll be plotting your next trek before the check drops. The Vietnamese menu is the work of chef Jimmy Tu, whose ancestry (born in Thailand to ethnically Chinese parents who grew up in Vietnam) sounds like a business plan straight out of the Asian Hipster Cuisine playbook. Combine this lineage with Tu’s French training in fine-dining kitchens, and you get a playful approach to Southeast Asian classics with an emphasis on pedigreed ingredients. You also get a roasted portobello bánh mì (with Havarti, smoked Gouda, and basil-peanut pesto), the kind of whimsical concoction that defines this moment in high-low cuisine. Service is quick and friendly, the dishes are plastic, and flatware arrives in a tin can. But then there’s the food: the shrimp-and-bacon-studded crêpe called bánh xèo, crisp and sticky on top and eggy-tender within; the primally comforting suòn nuong xá, char-grilled lemongrass pork tenderloin with a fried egg and rice; and the ca ri ga, chicken curry to end all chicken curries, served with a greasy, flaky roti to ensure that not a drop goes unsopped. Whether you visit Bunker by car, train, Citi Bike, skateboard, or covered wagon, it’s categorically worth the trip.
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