For the next four months, Outerspace in Bushwick will be a nonstop backyard summer party. Only instead of a few folding chairs and a cooler, this massive outdoor-only spot has a parking lot-sized patio filled with umbrella-covered picnic tables surrounded by rows of healthy-looking plant life. And you can forget the grilled weenies - the restaurant is hosting a collaborative dinner series with refreshing Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes from pop-ups Ha’s Đặc Biệt and Kreung that’s running until October.
Before this summer-long dinner series began, the small teams behind Ha’s Đặc Biệt and Kreung had never worked together. But after several limited-run Vietnamese food pop-ups at places like Frenchette and Cambodian dinners at Lil’ Debs Oasis, this four-person crew came together for a bigger vision. Now at Outerspace, they’ve got a full staff, a large kitchen space, and a whole dinner menu full of their own Vietnamese-Cambodian mashup dishes for the first time ever. They’ve transformed a patio restaurant surrounded by the tower cranes of industrial Bushwick into the most pleasant restaurant serving Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes anywhere in the city - and just in time for summer 2021.
The menu at Outerspace involves mostly family-style dishes you should eat with your hands. So the best way to enjoy this place is to bring a group of at least four people and share a little bit of everything. We especially love their roasted half chicken covered in chili pickle sauce, which had us sending impulsive “you need to try this” texts in the middle of dinner. And before you go wild on all the other big entrees, order the herb salad. It’s got a mix of crunchy lettuce, fresh basil, and mint, sprinkled with roasted peanuts, and drizzled with a fish sauce dressing - a combination of flavors and textures that’s earned our pick for the best bowl of leafy greens in NYC.
Fitting for a summer pop-up, Outerspace is somewhere you’ll want to eat seafood. The entree section of their menu has everything from stir-fried lobster to a whole grilled dorade, but whatever you choose, get a few rounds of their briny grilled oysters to start. With all the oyster Happy Hours in this city, it may seem unnecessary to order some at a place with so many other options, but these are special. Each order of four comes topped with a refreshing combination of things like scallions, peanuts, and garlic.
Relearning table manners and sharing dishes with a group here might feel like dining in some forgotten paradise you thought had gone extinct. But between Outerspace’s wood-fired Vietnamese-Cambodian dishes and parking-lot-sized patio, a meal here doesn’t just feel like a return to normalcy - it feels like a celebration of life. And even if you don’t build a sandcastle or fly a single kite before fall hits, a couple of meals here will satisfy everything else on your summer bucket list.
A great dish to start your meal with here. The scallion gives these oysters a refreshing kick and green glow, while the peanuts add some crunch.
Depending on how you feel about salads, you might typically overlook this glorious bowl of leafy greens. But as our server told us on our first visit, this is one salad you won’t want to miss. Order this and strap in for a wild ride of crunch.
Half Wood Fired Chicken
This chicken is brined, dried out, and roasted in a wood oven. And calling it “crispy” would be an understatement. The sumptuous meat comes out golden brown in a pool of chili pickle jus that you’ll want to scoop into a bowl for your future needs. Order this with a side of rice and never look back.
Grilled Pork Satay
A surprisingly skewer-less grilled pork dish. The satay here involves a few pieces of moist and tender meat topped with some peppery leaves and seasonings and a side of pickled ramps and some buttery roti from the legendary A&A Bake & Doubles. It’s one of our favorites among the share plates here.
Dry Rub Chicken Wings
You’ll experience the perfect balance of sweet and sour in every bite of these wings. Flavorful but not saucy, they each taste like they’ve just rolled down a sugar-coated hill and landed in a pool of peppery lime sauce.
Crudite & Kapiek
We all should eat more raw vegetables. So make it easier on yourself, and pair some with a pile of toasted shrimp known as kapiek. In addition to mashed seafood, the classic Cambodian dish involves a bunch of chili and peanuts that should make you feel better about munching on radishes like a very happy rabbit in the Hudson Valley.
Your classic corn on the cob - just roasted and drizzled in coconut milk so every bite is creamy and crunchy at the same time. Get it.
No matter which dishes make it on your table, there should always be a cocktail pitcher within reach. Stick to the non-frozen options like the pandan gimlet. Each one holds about five servings, which is more than enough to keep you feeling free from the responsibilities of your weekday routine for a few hours.