BFF Bistro offers an eclectic mix of Asian cuisine while also housing an on-site bakery and — wait for it — a disco lounge. On a recent Saturday afternoon visit, said lounge, near the front of the restaurant, was particularly busy, especially considering the normally drowsy environs of South Cooper Street in Arlington. All draft beer is $1.95 every day, every hour, which may explain the crowd through which three buddies and I had to slither to reach our table. The on-tap list includes a selection of foreign (Sapporo, Stella Artois), quasi-foreign (Dos Equis), and American (Michelob Ultra). The menu includes French/Vietnamese standards, sushi, and some Korean and Thai offerings along with a plethora of home-baked goodies.
The spring rolls were exactly as advertised: springy. The rice wrapper was soft but not sticky, and the vermicelli, shrimp, and pork innards were complemented by plain lettuce, not cilantro or mint. The peanut dipping sauce was delightfully savory, courtesy mainly of some subtle garlic.
BFF diners also get what looks like an entire loaf of homemade bread for starters. The accompanying bowl of “butter” actually turned out to be a Vietnamese mayo. Heavy on the garlic, it’s what’s usually smeared on your bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwich). The mayo was yummy, but if you take a big bite expecting butter, you’ll be in for a little shock.
The menu was so wide and broad that we ended up defaulting to our favorites. Since we’d already sampled the outstanding French bread, we skipped the bahn mi for some of the other house specialties. The standout plate was the banh xeo. Described on the menu as “Vietnamese pizza,” it consisted of a traditional rice pancake served open-faced with a truckload of groceries on top: tofu, calamari, pork, shrimp, and — for good measure — soft-cooked quail eggs. The delightfully crispy and light pancake was tasty by itself and was equally good rolled in the large leaf lettuce and dipped in the accompanying fish sauce. With the ingredients laid out on top pizza-style, each bite had a different taste and texture. The quail eggs in particular were deliciously goopy.
The teriyaki chicken with veggies and white rice was also excellent. The sauce was flavored with a lot of ginger, which gave the whole dish a sweet/savory kick. Along with the clumpy rice, the entrée came with a sizable amount of al dente steamed broccoli and cauliflower.
The house noodle bowl featured the standard vermicelli noodles with fish sauce, shrimp, pork, a fried egg roll, and crunchy veggies. There was plenty of food, and the shrimp were plump and perfectly cooked. The pork had an unusual spice –– maybe Chinese five-spice or something similar –– which was a little odd-tasting.
Ordering pad Thai in a Vietnamese restaurant seemed like a bit of a risk, but how badly could a restaurant mess up that classic? BFF didn’t mangle the sweetly savory rice noodle dish, but it wasn’t very spicy. Fortunately, there was sriracha sauce on the table.
All of BFF’s desserts are homemade. The winner was clearly the almond cake: lusciously moist, with a heavy almond flavor and smell. The red velvet cake was also nicely moist, but it wasn’t the best red velvet cake ever. The fried ice cream, ordered on a whim, was tasty with its tempura-like crust. The only dessert disappointment: the Vietnamese coffee, which was painfully strong. Yes, Vietnamese coffee is supposed to be powerful, but it’s not supposed to remove the enamel from your teeth.
More desserts are available from a large take-out case toward the front of the restaurant. A smart diner would peruse that case before making a choice. Many of the goodies there –– macaroons, brownies, blondies, a mango mousse cake, and a five-layer chocolate cake –– weren’t on the menu.
6501 S Cooper St, Ste 101, Arlington. 817-617-3450. 11am-12am Sun-Thu, 11am-2am Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Noodle bowl w/pork and shrimp.. $12.95
Chicken teriyaki………………………. $10.95
Pad Thai w/beef……………………… $10.95
Bahn xeo……………………………….. $12.95
Almond cake…………………………… $ 3.99