Ba Bellies, which debuted in Norcross in late June, is an example of the kind of urban restaurants many younger Asian chefs are opening these days, updating and playing off tradition. Classically trained chef/partners David Nguyen and Mike Yang call their version an Asian gastropub.
The sprawling contemporary space exhibits a bright, pop art glow around multiple dining areas, with a cozy bar near the entry and a large deck in back. And along with a focus on local craft beer, the menu offers flavors of Chinese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese cooking, plus a few nods to Southern dishes, all presented in an approachable way.
Nguyen and his sister, Tina, who runs the front of the house, grew up in the restaurant business. Their mother, Tieng Nguyen, is the owner and executive chef of the beloved Norcross Vietnamese spot, Nam Phuong. Yang brings experience from top New York City kitchens, including Per Se and Craft.
Last week, the Nguyens and Yang sat down and talked about how Ba Bellies grew from an idea for a fast casual concept into a full service restaurant serving lunch, dinner and brunch.
“Our concept in the beginning was small and casual,” David Nguyen said. “But we saw this place for sale, bought it, and 13 months later, here we are. Everything just kind of fell into place.”
Though they struggle with overused terms like gastropub and Asian fusion, the partners agree that they accurately describe their food and service.
“We really are focused on craft beer, and building relationships with local breweries, though we try not to be snooty about it,” Yang said. “And everything we do has a bit of an Asian twist, so there’s really no other way to describe it.
“Things like our Fish Sauce Caramel Wings are both familiar and funky. It’s sweet, salty, a little sticky and not too pungent. It’s become a best-seller. People even want to order it at brunch. But we don’t want to be pigeonholed as just an Asian restaurant. Even with things like our Shaking Beef, we are upping the quality with Certified Angus Beef and other better ingredients.”
At lunch, the menu features Belly Bowls, such as The Peachy Pig with pork belly from Georgia’s Heritage Farms, and sandwiches such as The Pignic with Heritage Farms pork shoulder. At brunch, a Crisp Brown Butter Vanilla Waffle with fresh fruit and whipped cream lands beside Bacon Fried Rice with smoked tamari.
As much as Ba Bellies strives for its own style, the Nguyens acknowledge their roots at Nam Phuong as both an inspiration and a sister restaurant.
“We brought some of the dishes from Nam Phuong over and kind of tweaked them to fit our style,” David Nguyen said. “That’s sort of how you get the menu here.”
“We’ve had customers say the Shaking Beef here is better than they’ve had at Nam Phuong,” Tina Nguyen said. “And I’m like, ‘Please don’t tell my mom.’ ”
6025 Peachtree Parkway Suite 9, Peachtree Corners. 770-710-056, babellies.com.
Here are some more images from a First Look at Ba Bellies.