Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bahn-Mi- a taste of Vietnam

For a couple of weeks, Travis has been raving about this small Vietnamese place, Viet-Nam Banh Mi So 1, by his office that had these great pork sandwiches I "had to try". So this past weekend, we trudged out in the snow and cold to try them - needless to say I had high expectations.
We arrived at the tiny storefront with a simple menu of numbered sandwiches with a variety of meat options (beef, chicken, pork). Toppings are the same on most of them, the only customizable options being to omit something or make a sandwich "spicy" or "extra spicy". Travis recommended a #3, so we ordered three #3s (Travis was hungry), two extra spicy and one regular. We also picked up Stewart's sodas (yum), cream soda and root beer.

After a short wait and a walk later, I unwrapped my sandwich to see a crusty, good-sized baguette stuffed with marinated diced pork, lots of cilantro, cucumber slices, and carrots.

I took a loud, crunchy, crumb-flinging bite. Initially the bread overpowered my bite, but after a bit of chewing the pork flavor began to take over. It was salty and sweet, a bit like asian barbeque or chau siu (roasted pork), not overly saucy, and nicely accented by the cool crispness of the cucumber, the marinated carrot, and the cilantro. After a couple more bites I began to taste a softer part of the bread where the pork had soaked in a bit, so the bread itself tasted a little like garlic butter and pork. The only downsides to eating were that the bread was incredibly crumbly and Travis' office floor had a small pile of bread crumbs by the time I was done and the cilantro wasn't chopped but was in large pieces, meaning I had to at times tear it by hand.

Travis' extra spicy was indeed spicy, as they added both chili garlic sauce (the same chili sauce served at dim sum and similiar to Siracha) and chopped up chilies, but the sweetness of the pork still came through.

From a flavor profile alone, a very happy 2 1/2 JAMs. While the restaurant has no seating and isn't the brightest or most modern environment, the food is worth a trip, even in the snow.
As a side note, the Stewart's sodas only get 1 JAM. The cream soda was too sweet and lacked any sort of creamy foam that I like on cream sodas (like A&W cream soda) and the root beer didn't have the depth of flavor and bite that I like in a root beer. The sweet sodas did help to cleanse our palates of the pork sandwiches.

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