Last night, An Bui held a media opening before his revamp of Commercial Taphouse officially opens tomorrow night, and I dropped by. If you missed the news a few months back, Bui bought the business and shut the doors for a new tap system, some interior sprucing, and a new menu designed by his niece Thuy Bui, who was formerly working at The Roosevelt and will now serve as executive chef at this latest venture.
Last night we got a peek at the changes. Bui’s goal was to retain the spirit of the Fan business Richmonders have frequented for years, so minor changes included renovated bathrooms (hooray!), moving the bar where people sit a bit closer to the actual bar/kitchen so there’s more room in the middle of the restaurant, painting the red walls white to lighten up the space, and, of course, a brand new tap system. Last night as we sipped sour beers from bottles, the team continued to work on the taps, and the first beer poured was Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien Grand Cru aged in champagne barrels — a fitting way to launch the new system.
As we mixed and mingled, the kitchen sent out bar snacks for our sampling pleasure. The go-there-immediately-and-try dish of the evening was the pork shoulder sub. A bun was piled high with pork that had been slow roasted with Vietnamese spices, including a pleasing punch of anise, and was topped with a generous drizzle of umami Sriracha mayo. The flavors blended just right, and the sandwich was accompanied by crunchy house-made potato chips and bread-and-butter pickles. If your friend tells you they are afraid of trying Vietnamese food, take them to Commercial Taphouse ASAP and make them eat this.
From the roasted meats to the pickles to the hand-sliced chips, everything at Commercial Taphouse is now made in-house. Other tasty dishes included the crunchy-to-perfection catfish sub, baked crab toast, fried oysters, and crunchy chili sauce chicken wings. Platters of the house-made chips also included taro chips, adding a nice variation to a standard dish. There is even a tasty salad on the menu if you must take a break from bar food deliciousness: It’s cabbage-based with cucumber, carrots, peanuts and a sweet house-made vinaigrette.
Expect the selection of beers to continue to rotate and reflect the selection found at Mekong and The Answer. The general manager from The Answer and some of the staff will also be going back and forth. I hear tomorrow night’s opening will feature some special beer selections, but I’m not at liberty to share what they are, so I’ll just say stop by and see for yourself.