Ooh, gasp, Bang: Spot on Second is first rate

By Lucy Robbins

Charlottesville’s hottest new restaurant– Bang– has us in a swoon. And no, it isn’t because the place practically makes it impossible not to order a cocktail.
    The table next to us on Bang’s intimate patio is served eye-catching blue and yellow cocktails in martini glasses. We ask what’s in the blue cocktail, and of course it has curacao, the staple of blue drinks. The guy sipping it obligingly tells us it’s “not bad,” not a ringing endorsement. However, his friend says the yellow drink, a lemon drop, is very good. 
They’re so pretty that we have to try one. We’re in the mood for pink, so we try the souped-up Cosmopolitans, even though in my opinion the martini season (and faux martini season) is pretty much over once the weather warms and your glass doesn’t stay chilled.
Over our pink drinks, we admire the bar with its opaque glass and the restaurant’s slick red interior opening onto the patio. Our server tells us to check out the lounge upstairs before we leave. The whole place reminds us of Thai Fusion, a restaurant we’d tried and loved in Rehoboth, only Bang’s Asian fusion turns out to be even better.
Bang has been described as a dim sum restaurant, but it’s not really a dumpling kind of place. Think Asian tapas.
From the 20 or so offerings on the menu, we order a handful of dishes, and the food soon has us moaning in ecstasy.
    We slop the red curry of mussels and calamari ($9) all over the table as we dribble the noodles to our mouths. I could complain that there are only four mussels– one of the cheapest seafoods around– in the dish. Or I could gripe that we aren’t given plates which would have made sharing less messy. Instead, I focus on getting that last mussel before Ellen does.
She’d been squeamish when I wanted to try the rabbit loin with shiitake salad ($10), acting like I was ordering Flopsy or Mopsy or something. It turns out to be the best dish we eat that night. About a dozen perfect little medallions of rabbit (how did they cut them so uniformly?) are lined up beside a lightly vinegared watercress salad loaded with shiitake mushrooms. The server set the plate close to Ellen, and the next thing I know, it’s nearly gone, and I have to wrench away the remaining bites.
Bang’s version of the classic Thai beef salad for $6 definitely goes minimalist. Chunks of barely-cooked beef are mounded tartare-like over a few cucumbers, making it more beef than salad. It’s cold and bracing.
Even the small dishes that don’t sound particularly appealing on the menu– like the rice cakes with Vietnamese dipping sauce ($4) (images of those round Styrofoamesque chips pop to mind)– are fried to a perfect crisp and accompanied by a nuoc cham-like sauce.
Our server gives us the best tip, suggesting we try the $2 coconut rice. We scrape up every grain and don’t need a dessert.
After a meal that’s almost better than sex, a post-prandial smoke seems in order. That becomes the odd portion of our dinner at Bang.
Ellen requests an ashtray. A sober-looking server comes over to our table to report that smoking is allowed only on the front porch. Ellen and I, seated outside on the patio at a place with a great-looking bar and great-looking cocktails that seem to cry out for tobacco, look at each other and think “Californication” á là Hamiltons’, another excellent restaurant that bans smoking outside.  
A few moments later, the same server returns and announces that we may smoke after all. Whoever was in charge that night said that because owner Vincent Durquenne (or was it his partner, Tim Burgess, both of Metropolitain/Bizou fame?) wasn’t there that night, she was reversing him, because how can you say people can’t smoke outside?
Now well sated, we bask in the afterglow of one of the best meals we’ve had recently. I’ve often bemoaned the lack of great Thai and Vietnamese in Charlottesville. And now it turns out that a couple of white boys put on the best show in town. Go figure.

2nd Street SW at South Street
5:30 to 9 or 9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday
5:30 to 10 Friday-Saturday
Closed Sunday and Monday
No smoking

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