Archive for the ‘bánh mì’ Category
Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen
3425 S. State St.
6093 S. Highland Dr.
It’s a joyful thing when a local business becomes a regular haunt because they make consistent, amazing product.
Oh Mai has become one of those for me. It’s a rare week that I’m not there twice buying two sandwiches at each visit. I eat one for whatever meal I’m servicing at the time, and put one in the fridge for the next day. It’s immediately a better day if I wake up and remember that there’s Oh Mai waiting for me in the chill chest for lunch.
My family loves it, too. I get sandwiches, my wife is stuck on pho. My daughter devours the Mai Roll, expertly gutting them for the shrimp, and then slowly deconstructing them from there. My mom goes there constantly, too.
Their newest creation is the chicken shiu mai, a chicken meatball sandwich. As is the norm for their food, it’s a complex dish. The ethereally tender meatballs swim in a delicious, dark red tomato-based sauce and are topped with a dark soy sauce that, when I first opened the little to-go container to assemble my sandwich and took my first whiff, smelled almost like chocolate. Add to that the usual cucumber, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and jalapeno and you have a really fantastic feast.
Oh Mai sandwiches all exist on a spectrum between fairly clean like the S2 roast pork, and a dripping, delicious mess like the S12 brisket pho. This newest sandwich, due to the combination of sauces, is definitely on the messy end of things. I was glad that I got mine packed with the sauces and vegetation on the side. Eating it there wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
It takes a lot to break me out of my usual “S2 and S5 with extra pickled vegetables” habit when it comes to Oh Mai, but I’m already looking forward to tonight’s chicken shiu mai special.
various locations throughout the valley – http://www.chowtruck.com
I have many hopes for the future. Balanced budgets, a sane health care system, peace in the world, all over the world.
One hope trumps them all right now, though. And that hope is that SuAn Chow decides to make the current shrimp bahn mi slider with garlic ginger aioli & pickled radish special a permanent part of the menu. It would put to rest forever what my go-to at Chow Truck should be. One of these and an order of calamari and I’d be set in perpetuity.
The panko-encrusted shrimp is cooked perfectly. It’s tender, moist, and rather generous in portion so that it doesn’t get lost in the slider bun and all the rest of the sandwich fillings.
A shrimp slider of some sort has graced the specials menu many times in the past. This is, by far, the best of the lot, and mostly because of some beautifully balanced pickled radishes and carrots. The sandwich also hits another common bahn mi note with some julienne cucumber.
Subbing in for the usual pate and mayo is a devilishly delicious garlic ginger aioli. I’ll admit that I miss the pate. Then again, if the pate were to magically appear, it’s entirely possible that my head might explode from the beauty of it all.
I love what I see so far.
Unfortunately, when I rolled up about 1:30, they were sold out of the bahn mi and the falafel sandwiches. Oliver commiserated with me, offering that they’re doing dinner for Gallery Stroll. I was too hungry to wait, though, so I took what I could get.
Kimchi dog. It’s a basic hot dog. That is all that is basic about it. It is topped with delicious, scratch-made kimchi and an aioli. The alternating cooling from the aioli and the heat from the kimchi made my slavering mouth dance. The rather unique bun was soft and maybe a little big for the dog and fixings, but that’s a tiny complaint in the middle of a huge rave.
Greens and fries. Sauteed kale and onions with a generous helping of sweet chili oil on the top and some more of that house aioli. I’m not the world’s greatest fan of fries. Well, let me back that one up a bit. I do like fries, but somewhere in the middle of a serving of them, the fat and carb guilt catch up to my enjoyment and I stop. I ate every single spud this time around. The earthiness of the kale works perfectly with the potatoes, and that chili oil and aioli lift the whole thing to another level.
I might be headed back for dinner. He was kind enough to let me sample the pate that goes on the bahn mi, and if the rest of the sandwich comes close to it, I’m about to be a very happy guy.
I headed back for dinner. It was a bit of a mixed bag, but all of the pieces appear to be there for Lewis Bros. to be a force to be reckoned with.
The bahn mi was tasty. The pate is the best of any that appears on the sandwiches locally. I might ask for a side of nothing but it next time. The pulled pork and pork belly were both excellent, as were the pickled veg. On the downside, the really soft roll they are using meant the sandwich fell apart in my hands in very short order. And, while a $6 sandwich doesn’t seem out of line in general, this one is by far the smallest in size of any of the local bahn mi as well as one of the more expensive.
The kimchi fries hold promise. I had the Greens and Fries for lunch and the fries were crispy, but this evening’s fries were pretty floppy. I figured that might be a result of the wet kimchi on top of them, but some additional prodding made it clear that they were simply undercooked. The kimchi was a tasting topping, though, so had the fries been cooked, this dish would have been a winner.
That’s a lot of negative talk to still be giving a four-star recommendation, isn’t it? Here’s why: taste, taste, and taste. The food is tasty and even the dishes that aren’t perfectly executed show all sorts of promise to be so in the future.
Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen
6093 S. Highland Dr.
Holladay, UT 84121
Wow. Just wow.
I’m a huge fan of the original location, sure. There is even more here to love.
What’s different: better parking, more table space, more room in the back. You can see that the kitchen is much more comfortable, which leads one to think that wait times for food are going down. The interior feels spacious and cool.
More important than all that, they have a drive-thru window. I can now get my order without hauling myself out of the car.
What’s the same. same friendly staff, same amazing recipes. The menu is full of the same delicious, offerings I’ve come to love from the original location. Today they had the special, the name of which I’ll be reverentially typing slowly so as to not throw myself into a total food geek out.
Brisket pho sandwich.
Beautifully roasted brisket, Thai basil, some heat, and some pho broth to keep it all moist and flavorful. Brilliant. This is my new favorite sandwich without any question. I kind of wish I’d had a bite before offering half to my wife. To my shame as a spouse, I might have kept the entire thing for myself. I’m not selfish; the sandwich is just that good.
Convenient Holladay dining just took a quantum leap. I’ll be back tomorrow for more of that brisket pho sandwich.
111 E 300 S
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Welcome to lunchtime, Plum Alley!
The new lunch menu drops a few items and picks up rice bowls and three banh mi sandwiches – the traditional cold cut, a pork shoulder, and a chicken curry.
These are not your grandma’s banh mi.
First, the cold cut sandwich is stuffed with Creminelli mortadella. It is buttery, rich, and pocked with peppercorns. Then there is a good portion of ham. I’d say that, compared to most banh mi I’ve had, these are fairly protein heavy. That is not a criticism.
Also along the less traditional vein are the pickled veggies. I believe I saw some green beans in there, but definitely not the usual daikon. It’s hard to be accurate at this point. I planned to open it when I got back to my car, since I got my order to go, and have a single bite and save the rest until I got home. I had my bite, pulled out into traffic, and found bite after bite of the sandwich willing itself into my mouth. I blame some sort of Plum Alley long-distance mind control device.
Delicious. Not traditional, but no complaints here. Did I mention the sauce?
I should mention the sauce. Most banh mi have some mayo and chicken liver pate. So, the mad Plum Alley geniuses think, why not just combine the two?
Please welcome to the world patéoli.
The mortadella is so unctuous that the sandwich almost doesn’t need it, but it does push the whole proceeding over the top. I was especially glad that the pickled veg was way to the sour end of the spectrum, since it cut the fat nicely.
I should mention that, at $7, they are well over double the cost of the other banh mi you’ll find around town. Using extremely high quality meats and hand making devilish pickles definitely brings with it a price tag. Worth it? Probably so, and definitely worth trying to decide for yourself.
Can’t wait to try the other two varieties.
How soon is too soon to write an update? The next day?
I hope not. We enjoyed our food so much that we decided it was dinner tonight, too. At first I figured I’d go with the same S1, but found the the flavors were impressive enough that I wanted to see what other magic they might have in store.
We got a V1, a bun or vermicelli noodle salad with honey-glazed pork. The flavor of the meat was just subtly sweet, enough to compliment the natural sweetness of pork. It was perfectly cooked and has some nicely crispy, caramelized ends. The salad came with a really tasty chili-lime fish sauce vinaigrette to put over the cold noodles and veggies. Really great dish.
We also got two sandwiches. The first, the S3, is a yellow curry chicken cooked with coconut milk. This was a bit of a departure for me from the usual porky land of the traditional bánh mì, but the seductively spicy chicken was a great match with all of the usual pickled vegetation. I can see revisiting this neighborhood again for sure.
How to Make a Clown Cry:
Step 1: Order an Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s
Step 2: Order the S10 Sunny Side Up Egg sandwich from Oh Mai
Step 3: Place them next to each other, noting that the Oh Mai sandwich is at least twice as large and contains two eggs and generous helpings of pickled carrot and daikon as well as caramelized onions
Step 4: Compare the prices of the two, noting that the Oh Mai Sandwich is currently two cents cheaper
Step 5: Taste
I ordered this sandwich mostly out of curiosity and because of the very low price. I am a believer now. I also noted that they offer to add a sunny side up egg to any sandwich for less than a buck. That will be happening soon.
Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen
3425 S State St
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
My bias from the outset: I love bánh mì, and love that I have a variety of places to choose from to get them in SLC. The only downside of the status quo is that they all reside on a ten block stretch of each other on Redwood Road, a substantial drive from my place. So when I saw the sign for Oh Mai go up on State Street a month ago, was I rooting for them to be great? You bet I was.
My dreams have come true. This place stands to save me many trips to the west side.
The bánh mì that I had, the S1 Cold Cuts, was as close to my gold standard, Spice Kit in San Francisco, as I’ve found in the area. On the protein side of the lineup, pork roll, jambon ham, pork head cheese, and a pork pate. The vegetation side: pickled daikon and carrot, jalapeno, cilantro, and cucumber. Surround that with a piece of bread that, while not the traditional so-crispy-that-it-shatters-on- the-first-bite baguette, was nonetheless of the french variety, thoroughly toasted, and nicely dressed with garlic butter and mayo. It hits all of the usual bánh mì notes of unctuous, sweet from the vegetables, and substantial from the meat. At only $3.88, it is ridiculously inexpensive. Something about the more substantial bread and the generous toppings also makes this a much more filling sandwich than any of its brethren further west.
Despite being stuffed, I also had some pho, which was highly tasty. I loved the broth in particular. But, for me, this place was about the sandwich. In talking with the staff, they said that they plan to start offering the more traditional chicken liver pate with the sandwich, as well as green papaya salad in the future.
The hours on the door are 9:30a to 8:30p, 7 days a week. I think that may, coincidentally, describe my return schedule for the place, too.
Kim Heang Market
1820 W 3600 S
Salt Lake City, UT 84119
October 26, 2011
Sincere thanks to Sam for the heads up. I had no idea that there was another option out there for a bahn mi or, as the cashier insisted, a Vietnamese sandwich.
I found mine in a metal tray at the front of the store with his help. And so, unlike the other Redwood Road sandwich purveyors, these aren’t being made to order, nor can you make special requests. This is unfortunate, since I really love the chicken liver pate that comes with the prototypical bahn mi, which is partially substituted here for a sweet BBQ sauce.
I’m not down on anybody who enjoys their sandwich this way. I’m the kind of guy who says that what an adult chooses to put on their sandwich and what happens between them thereafter is nobody’s business but theirs. However, let me make the case for the BBQ-less sandwich.
The bahn mi is, in the universe of sandwiches, on the complex side. There is an agile interplay of fat from the mayo and pate, acid from the pickled vegetables, heat from the jalapenos, and umami from the various pork products. Much of the joy in the sandwich, for me, exists in experiencing that interplay, fully attending to each element. A strong, sugary BBQ sauce element tends to pull all of the attention to itself. Can you taste heat? Sure. It’s still there. Does the pork taste lovely? Of course. But rather than them being main players, they’re relegated to the chorus line.
That isn’t to say that it isn’t popular, though. Cafe Thao Mi does a bahn mi with BBQ sauce that they say is their best seller. Which all goes by way of saying that I enjoyed my Kim Heang sandwich a lot. The fillings were even on the generous side, akin to the Hong Phat sandwich. The pate was delicious, and the pickled vegetation was crispy. The BBQ sauce got in the way for me, though.
If Yelp allowed for half or quarter stars, I’d be somewhere in the 3.75 range. It’s bumped to 4 here out of deference to all those who enjoy the BBQ variant of the sandwich, as well as in recognition of this being the cheapest of the bunch at a here $2. If you want to try the more authentic version, though, you won’t have an option to order it here. That being said, props for convenience and a killer price.
I completed my quest for local bánh mì on Friday at Indochine Vietnamese Bistro across the street from the U campus. I arrived just about 3pm, which is when they stop serving the sandwich, but had called ahead to let them know that I’d be coming in and to place my order. Although as I began asking around in local Vietnamese restaurants for recommendations and had heard Indochine mentioned several times as an option, when I first checked the menu, there was no mention of bánh mì. The express lunch menu does mention a baguette sandwich, however. Maybe the fact that they didn’t use that name for it was an augur of things to come.
When I placed the order, I was offered options of beef or pork. Since all the sandwiches I’d had so far had been pork, I figured that was the way to go. Here’s the short version of the review: I wasn’t pleased.
The bread used for the sandwich differs greatly from any that I’d seen so far. In fact, I’m fairly sure I recognized them as coming from a local Costco bakery. They are very dense, artisan loaves which have a very uneven texture and are extremely chewy. They are perfect for soaking with garlic oil and broiling to go with a nice Italian meal. I’m actually a real fan of these little loaves for other applications, and have tried using them in a variety of meals over the years. They are a bit of a nightmare for a sandwich, though, and for this sandwich in particular. The bread is so dense that it overwhelms the taste of all of the other sandwich fillings.
The pork used for Indochine’s sandwich is extremely sweet. It had been described to me as “roast pork,” but after looking at it closely, I had other suspicions. It was extremely fatty in an unpleasing way. I suspect it might be poorly cooked pork belly, but I’m not sure. If you told me that it was a lightly smoked, thick-cut bacon marinated in Yoshida’s sauce, that would just about make sense. At any rate, I could have used a lot less fat and gristle and much more lean meat. The flavor of the meat was good, however. There was no sign of any other protein on the sandwich, an automatic ding against it for a pate lover such as I.
The vegetation was spare. On its own it had that distinctive pickled taste, but between the heavy bread and the fat-saddled pork, it got completely lost. Indochine’s sandwich did add in some thinly sliced scallion on top, but there wasn’t so much as a leaf of cilantro to be seen. There were several slices of fresh jalapeno. However, they were so thickly cut that the three bites that contained them were completely dominated with heat, while the rest of the sandwich had none.
And that is it. No mayonnaise, no pate, nothing. It is served with some nicely seasoned matchstick fried potatoes which were, I suspect, supposed to be crispy. Mine appeared to have been sitting long enough that half were soggy, sorry messes and the others were still crisp. However, at over $6, this sandwich is by far the most expensive one I’ve encountered since San Francisco. And, since it is only a couple of dollars cheaper than the gourmet-inspired one at Spice Kit, the Indochine sandwich suffers badly in comparison to it. Had it come close in quality to the ones on the west side, I could see a case to be made for paying a bit extra for those who live close to the U campus. It doesn’t, so if you’re wanting a good bánh mì, you’ll need to drag yourself to Redwood Road.
Which leaves only one question: Cafe Thao Mi or Hong Phat? Since there were several weeks between my sampling both of them, I think I’ll put off that call until I can get the two of them next to each other and conduct a real bun-to-bun comparison.
The latest stop in my quest for a local bánh mì to rival the $8 ones I had in San Francisco took me back over to the west side to Carriage Square. There are a few areas in Utah that fascinate me, as they were clearly created by the same developer with some sort of chain in mind. I grew up in Sandy and there is a nearly identical shopping area called Union Square. Same layout, with a long L-shaped row of buildings tracing one boundary of the property, a block of buildings facing it from the opposite corner bordering 4100 S and Redwood Road, and parking between them. There was more than one business I frequented in Union Square – Winchell’s Donuts chief among them – so as I drive into Carriage Square, it always feels somewhat familiar.
Cafe Thao Mi is on the south side of the square. My wife and daughter hung out in the car while I ran in. I realized on the way in that I didn’t check to make sure they do orders to go. I needn’t have worried, as their menu is a big, deli-style board on the wall. There was a group before me waiting, so I took a look around the menu.
It is huge. Although I didn’t get through the entire thing before it came time to order, there were definitely some tantalizing dishes on it that merit further investigation. The section that I was interested in is on the top left. There are at least half a dozen bánh mì variations available, all differing in the protein on the sandwich. Since my wife and I were sharing, I chose the special combination with pork roll, pate, jamon, and grilled pork and one with just pork roll. My wife and I had just been talking about how much we miss the green papaya salad and spring rolls from Out the Door, and I notice several kinds of spring rolls on the menu, but opt for just the sandwiches since we’re heading to a birthday party where there will be food.
As has been the trend thus far in Salt Lake, the sandwiches are a bargain. They are on the menu for $2.80 each, so for $6 even I’m out the door with two of them.
The bread used to make these sandwiches were smaller than those at either Hong Phat or Tay Do. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as it means a better filling-to-bread ratio. As with both of the other sandwiches, I could have used a bit more of the pickled vegetation on mine. The meats were delicious, but I strongly preferred the complexity of the combination over the pork roll. I also really liked the pate on the sandwiches we had. It had a much bolder flavor than those at the other two bánh mì stores.
After the sandwiches were gone, I really regretted not grabbing some spring rolls. I’ll definitely be back to explore that big, beautiful menu.
As for which sandwich I preferred overall, I’m going to have to do some additional tasting. Once I get a Hong Phat and a Cafe Thao Mi next to each other and compare head-to-head, I’ll update. But before that, I’ve got one last place to hit: Indochine Vietnamese Bistro across from the U campus.