More Than a Place for Craft Beer and Dim SumBy: The Local Palate
A small statue of the female Buddha Guan Yin stands in a regal pose on the windowsill above our heads, where warm winter sun dances upon our teacups in golden flecks of light. The mooncakes arrive, four of them, served on a plate that’s lined with a verdant sliver of banana leaf. Unlike Brewery Bhavana‘s bao or dumplings, the mooncakes aren’t steamed. Instead they are baked and lightly seared, stuffed with a fragrant, warm ground beef mixture. The round shape celebrates the full moon, each tightly coiled in a dough laminated in a French-Chinese tradition—a process that Si demonstrates later in the kitchen. She pockets a small ball of dough into another flattened-out disc of dough, rolls it over with a pastry dowel, folds, and repeats the steps at least four times. Pads of butter laminate the dough. This Chinese celebration food is even more buttery than a biscuit. It feels Southern.
Details and similarities like these are constantly illuminated at Brewery Bhavana, which is more than the sum of its parts. It’s a restaurant, for one, known for an inventive dim sum menu helmed by Si. It’s a bar—a very grand bar that’s packed on the weekends, with a row of forty beer taps and an impressive cocktail menu. And it’s also a flower shop and bookstore, two tiny welcome posts that anchor the center of the restaurant.
Bhavana transports you to an imagined place come to life, one that sprang up organically when a few friends shared their dreams of a perfect community space. It’s the second venture for siblings Vansana (Van) and Vanvisa Nolintha, whose first restaurant next door, Bida Manda, opened to a lot of fanfare as the first restaurant in the South to elevate Laotian food to a level familiar to Laotians, but in a way the rest of us could understand and appreciate. Van planted the idea of Bhavana, inspired by his upbringing in Southeast Asia where, he says, even cafes built in tiny enclaves made space for books. The bookstore and flower shop idea came from a shared love for both of those things among his friends and employees at Bida Manda, who eventually helped shape the concept at Bhavana. And, of course, the 9,000 square feet provided ample room to build a dream. “Food is a leading element in how we define ourselves as people and communities,” Van says. Brewery Bhavana opened in Raleigh, North Carolina in March 2017 and success followed suit.