BFF Bakery, Bistro & Bar is trying to be all things to all customers.
Sushi bar, sports bar, French bakery, pan-Asian family restaurant. And yes, that BFF does mean what you think it does, so apparently it is trying to attract the 13-year-old-girl market, too.
Somewhat surprisingly, it mostly works.
A little background: Pho 95 restaurants in Haltom City and east Arlington have been humble but reliable purveyors of Vietnamese soups, spring rolls and such for a long time. About two years ago, a new Pho 95 opened in south Arlington that was considerably slicker than its cousins. It did well. Now owner Charlie Pham has opened BFF Bakery, Bistro & Bar, which he calls a new concept.
Gone is the pho. In its place is Vietnamese pumpkin soup, dragon rolls, Korean barbecued beef and almond croissants.
BFF offers an open kitchen where you can watch a sushi chef who formerly worked at Fort Worth's Shinjuku Station prepare rolls. A high-tech bar with changing colored lights attracted a steady clientele during the restaurant's soft opening. The large patio is built around a water feature and has an outdoor bar. Pham plans to have live music on the patio on weekends. A bakery section offers croissants, baguettes and savory filled rolls baked on-site.
When we took BFF for a test-drive, we made a beeline for the Vietnamese pizza ($12.95) appetizer, which is nothing like pizza. It's actually a large crepe topped with an assortment of goodies including calamari, shrimp, chicken, quail eggs, green onions and bean sprouts. Pham says this dish, called banh xeo, is traditionally served in Vietnamese homes when it is raining. Our server instructed us to tear off pieces of the crepe and wrap it in lettuce leaves, which we then dipped in a sweet sauce. We loved this original "share-it" dish, including the cute little sunny-side-up eggs winking up at us.
Vietnamese chicken wings -- why is it we don't think this is an authentically Vietnamese dish? -- are soaked in a soy sauce/honey/brown sugar marinade before cooking. Not original but also not bad. With sports-watchers in mind, wings are priced at 50 cents apiece Monday and Thursday evenings and all day Sunday. Other times they are 10 for $10.95.
The build-your-own grill plate ($14.95) lets you select a noodle, three meats and a sauce to combine with a riot of vegetables. We chose udon noodles; scallops, mussels and chicken; and the house sauce. We'll definitely order this again, though the house sauce was a bit too mild for our taste and we'll try another, perhaps lemon pepper or kung pao, next time.
Korean BBQ beef ($14.95) is marinated and grilled short rib, sliced very thin. It's an unusual preparation, and we liked the spices but thought the meat a bit tough.
The French bakery aisle had been crying out to us during the meal so we grabbed an almond croissant and a baguette to go. The croissant was every bit as lovely as it looked, with almond flavoring suffused throughout rather than just the usual blob of almond paste in the center. The baguette was disappointing, with no crispness to the crust. Pham says the softness is intentional, so that it stays fresh more than a few hours. He says the baguette can be crisped by popping it in the oven right before it is eaten.