Restaurant of the Week: Bia Garden

Erica Cerulo

There's a fine line between trying too hard and not trying hard enough, and many New York restaurants just can't manage to achieve the right balance. Though Bia Garden, the relaxed new backyard spot from Michael Huynh, the cheeky Vietnamese ingénue behind Bar Bao and Pho Sure, has plenty of gimmicks -- you enter the airy dining space through the refrigerator, beer must be ordered by the six-pack, dozen, or case (though you only pay for what you drink) -- the overall effect is alluring, more La Esquina than Mars 2112. Here, these oddities and the overall undone state of the décor (plywood and a blue plastic tarp are currently standing in for the canvas "roof" that will cover the space and murals of dragons and volcanic beers are half-complete) give the spot an escapist quality -- a place to swill Tsingtao, Tiger, Kingfisher, or other Asian brew in peace. The menu has its highs and lows: Avoid the fried dishes (like the frog legs, $10, or fish and chips, $12), which are shockingly bland and anything you could find at your regular pho haunt (like crab spring rolls or shrimp summer rolls, both $7). Instead, load up on the more inspired creations like pork belly in a bracingly salty caramel sauce ($14) or fish jerky with hoisin and sriracha for dipping ($5). And though it's easy to pass by Bia Garden on The Annex's strip of Orchard -- it looks like a takeout joint from the street -- don’t worry: There's a sign.

Bia Garden
154 Orchard St.
(212) 780-0010

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