Sunday, February 13, 2011

Oi! Banh Mi

I've been wanting to write about a banh mi restaurant I went to in London in January called Banh Mi Bay, but since that visit was my first experience with banh mi and I haven't been too sure what to say about the Vietnamese sandwiches besides that they were delicious. However, on Thursday when Charlie and I were looking for pizza in Little Italy we came across Banh Mi Saigon on Grand St. and decided to take a second stab at it.  I had read good things about the restaurant online and was really excited to finally have something to compare my London experience to.

Banh Mi are Vietnamese baguettes usually with pickled carrots, daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, pate, mayo, and your choice of meat (usually pork, sometimes chicken.)  At our first banh mi experience in London, Charlie ordered pork and I had shrimp.  Both of us were very surprised at the bold flavors that came out of these simple looking sandwiches.  Literally, the flavors of banh mi are like an amazing explosion in your mouth.  I was a bit underwhelmed because my shrimp sandwich was very light on the fillings and thus quite bready.  We split both sandwiches and I was much more impressed by the pork and pate.  Banh Mi Bay was cool because it was quite casual and they had a diverse menu with many Vietnamese dishes besides banh mi.

At Banh Mi Saigon we both ordered the pork sandwich but Charlie ordered his "spicy". Within 30 seconds the sandwiches were ready and we sat on stools by the small jewelry counter that is in the front of the store.  I was really surprised by the size of the sandwich-- for $3.75 I was not expecting much but it was actually huge.  It was very flavorful and the vegetables seemed fresh.  There were roast pork pieces and a slice of pork on each;  the sliced pork seemed cheap and was quite thin, but the pork pieces were nicely caramelized and tasty.  There was no pate or mayo, but I have since read online that you can add pate to the pork sandwich for $1.00 extra.  The bread was crispy but not very soft in the middle, and I would definitely say that Banh Mi Bay's baguettes were better.
My banh mi obsession is just beginning.  I hope to try more places in New York soon, but so far, I definitely recommend Banh Mi Saigon.

Banh Mi Bay: 4-6 Theobald's Road, WC1X 8PN, London 
Banh Mi Saigon: 198 Grand St. between Mulberry and Mott Sts. (212) 941-1541


alicia j bozzone said...

I LOVE Vietnamese food! I get this exact sandwich but with chicken from this place in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn and it's amazing!

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