Food & Drink

Brewery Bhavana lands on Bon Appetit’s Top 10 Best New Restaurant list

Brewery Bhavana's menu is divided into two roughly equal categories, labeled A Little Something (dumplings, buns and other small plates); and A Bit Larger (entree portions, for the most part).
Brewery Bhavana's menu is divided into two roughly equal categories, labeled A Little Something (dumplings, buns and other small plates); and A Bit Larger (entree portions, for the most part). jleonard@newsobserver.com

Brewery Bhavana is one of Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants in the country.

Earlier this month, the restaurant – a dim sum, brewery, flower shop and bookstore – was the only North Carolina restaurant to make the magazine’s list of 50 best new restaurants.

On Aug. 15, the downtown Raleigh restaurant learned it made the Hot 10, alongside restaurants in New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia and other major cities in the country.

The restaurant is owned by Van Nolintha, his sister Vanvisa Nolintha and brewmaster Patrick Woodson. They opened Brewery Bhavana in March next door to the Nolinthas’ Laotian restaurant, Bida Manda.

“This is really a Raleigh story,” Van Nolintha said the day after hearing of the honor. “It really has been such an emotional, long journey. ... The award, beyond anything, is a recognition of all the kind, compassionate, generous people who have helped us along the way.”

The magazine expressed skepticism of the Bhavana concept, saying it might belong in a city like San Francisco.

“But halfway through my second beer, a funky, peachy brett saison, I started to believe in whatever this thing was,” writes Andrew Knowlton. “It wasn’t a concept or even a vision, it was simply an eclectic group of family and friends who decided to open a place together, each bringing their passions to the table. Best of all, it felt like a community center for like-minded locals who value diversity, open-mindedness, and, yes, Cantonese barbecue pork buns.”

Knowlton calls the restaurant “a beautifully designed showstopper like nothing the town had seen before.”

Nolintha said he became emotional reading the magazine’s story about the restaurant and praised Bon Appetit for understanding how special Brewery Bhavana is.

“They got the heart of why we do what we do,” he said. “It’s not just a review of the food and the drinks, but what we’re really trying to capture in that space.”

In the Top 50 announcement, the magazine praised the soup dumplings, crab fried rice and what it calls “textbook perfect” Peking duck. It might go without saying when honoring a brewery, but the magazine says not to skip out on the beer, even if it’s not usually your drink. With at least a dozen styles, there’s something for every taste, the magazine says.

A group from Brewery Bhavana will travel to New York City Sept. 6 to be recognized by Bon Appetit. They are invited to pour some of their beer, though they haven’t decided yet which beer they’ll bring. Nolintha said he’s excited that so many people will be with them to honor the moment.

“It’s a story about young people who believe in an idea,” he said. “Our little idea has turned into a gathering place. This is our love letter to the city.”

Jessica Banov: 919-829-4831, @JessicaBanov

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