eat. | A Quick Q&A with New Haven’s coolest chef, Bun Lai.

The Mamoun’s-inspired falafel roll at Miya’s


If you live in New Haven, you already know who Bun Lai is.  A feeder and friend to all in The Elm City, the boss behind what’s arguably the best restaurant in town, Miya’s (though he would humbly disagree) sat down with me for a few minutes to discuss his latest and greatest inspired creation, future collaborative efforts, and why it kind of kicks ass to live here.


What was the inspiration for this roll?  Did the guys at Mamoun’s have a hand in the decision-making process?

I created the falafel roll in honor of my friends at Mamoun’s because they’ve been like brothers to me since I was 10.  It’s a cracked whole wheat and barley roll filled with Mamoun’s falafel balls, fried broccoli, onions, tomatoes, and parsley.  It’s topped with grilled eggplant and grape leaves, then drizzled with tahini.

During the first decade of working at Miya’s, I hardly understood the restaurant business and my friends, Sulieman and Tarek taught me how it’s done.  In the late 90s and early 2000s, it wouldn’t be any exaggeration to say they helped save Miya’s.  I feel safe in the world knowing that I have them in my corner.

Does the roll have a name yet?  Is it currently on the menu or is it only a secret to those in the know?

I haven’t thought of a name yet!  I bet somebody else will come up with a funny name.  It’ll definitely be on our next menu, though.

Are there any future “Frankenstein” rolls coming up?  Do you think you’ll collaborate with other New Haven restaurants and develop new rolls?  Thali next, please!  With basmati rice!

For a recent fundraiser I did for my alma mater (The Foote School), the Ethiopian restaurant Lalibela was kind enough to make us a bunch of Injera for a recipe I created that was inspired by the Queen of Sheba.  I love working on all sorts of ideas with all sorts of people who come from many different walks of life.

I have a lot of chef friends I work with; so, without a doubt, New Haven will experience other collaborative recipes. I think it’s a great idea to create something with Prasad of Thali!

Because man cannot live on rice alone, what do you love most about New Haven?  Where are your favorite places to go?  Things to do?  Who or what inspires one of the most creative dudes in all of New Haven?

My favorite places to go in New Haven, really, are Miya’s and Mamoun’s.  Not because they are the best, but because these two restaurants raised me.

I love New Haven because it’s got world-class talent that I can draw tons of inspiration from, but in a small-town setting.  I really can’t even begin to say who inspires me in this town because there are literally too many people to name.  That’s a pretty great problem to have, I think.


Read more about the story behind Bun’s falafel roll and his brothers at Mamoun’s here.

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