Four years ago, Aniece Meinhold and Cesar Zapata pioneered the pop-up craze in Miami. With a few tables and some linen drapes, they turned downtown's disused Crown Bistro into the short-lived yet beloved Vietnamese restaurant Phuc Yea.
Four years later, they're preparing to give it a permanent home on Biscayne Boulevard in the former Moonchine space at NE 71st Street. But with construction and permitting delays aplenty, they've also run short on patience. So beginning today and continuing weekdays, they'll offer a preview of Phuc Yea's menu from noon to 3 p.m. Dinner will also be served Mondays only from 6 to 10 p.m.
In the offing for lunch will be traditional bánh mì sandwiches with steamed pork and pâté ($10) and fresh spring rolls called cha gio ($8), filled with shrimp, pork, crab, jícama, and mushrooms. Phos will be filled with cuts of beef ranging from tripe to brisket and flank ($14) or just chicken ($12). At night, look for crispy duck ($22), papaya salad ($9), and bánh cuon — spring rolls packed with crisp pork and wood ear mushrooms ($10).
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Barely noticeable for the moment will be the menu's Louisiana influences. In the beginning, Phuc Yea offered a bulk of recipes from Meinhold's French-Vietnamese family. Its new iteration will include some New Orleans Creole flair, drawing on some of the success Meinhold and Zapata had plying Southern cuisine with unexpected twists at the Federal.
"The Vietnamese recipes will be straight-up Vietnamese," Meinhold says, "but in our wok, we might throw chilies and lemongrass with a Creole sauce."
You can spot it on the lunch menu, where fried catfish is stuffed into a baguette ($12) with pickles, a Cajun aioli, and herbs. Let's hope the city, or Meinhold and Zapata, can get the rest of pieces into place so we can get a glimpse at the full menu sooner rather than later.