Do C restaurant grades scare you? Not me, if they did, I wouldn’t be a frequent customer at Cong Ly where they serve bun bo Hue. I wrote about bun bo Hue a few months ago when I had it at a restaurant in Los Angeles dedicated to the dish. It was aptly named Bun Bo Hue So 1. Unfortunately, in New York, such dedication doesn’t exist, but when the mood strikes, Cong Ly delivers. MORE »
Most people are all about pho at Vietnamese restaurants, but personally, I love bun bo Hue, a spicy, lemongrass flavored rice noodle soup originally from Hue (a capital city in central Vietnam) with sliced beef shank, pigs’ feet, and if you’re lucky, blood cubes. (Coagulated blood is a beautiful thing.) So when I discovered there were two restaurants in Los Angeles named after the dish, I knew I couldn’t leave without eating it at least once. On Day 6, the second to last day in LA, it was all about getting some bun bo Hue. MORE »
Yes, I know banh mis are so early 2009, and yes, I know everyone knows about Banh Mi Saigon, the small Vietnamese sandwich shop in the back of a jewelry store on Mott Street, but I recently made an invaluable discovery. For the longest time, although I love the Pork Banh Mi ($3.75) at Banh Mi Saigon, I missed the pâté the other famous Vietnamese shop in Alphabet City has in their pork sandwiches. (As I mentioned in a previous post, I actually prefer the Alphabet City store, but for some weird reason I got food poisoning once, and now I go almost exclusively to Banh Mi Saigon.) So on a recent trip to Banh Mi Saigon, I asked if there was a way I could get some pâté in the Pork Banh Mi, and of course, it was just a matter of asking. For one dollar extra ($4.75 total), the wonderful people at Banh Mi Saigon will spread a very generous layer of creamy pâté, even possibly too much, into an already overstuffed sandwich of roast barbecued pork, Vietnamese bologna, fresh cucumber sticks, cilantro, jalapeno slices, pickled daikon, and pickled carrots. One bite and you’ll be serious umami heaven. Now if only I could get them to add some Vietnamese headcheese (giò thủ), life would be closer to perfect. MORE »
When David’s cousin, Alvin, told me he never had a banh mi before, I knew this problem had to be immediately rectified. The big question though was whether to take him to cheap but reliable Banh Mi Saigon or to fancy pants Baoguette. I’d been meaning to try Baoguette ever since TimeOut New York declared Baoguette’s classic banh mi to be the Best New Banh Mi of 2009. I’m not exactly sure why I trusted TimeOut, considering I’ve had quite a few unpleasant experiences with their past recommendations, but sometimes it’s hard not to fall for the hype. For example, Da Vinci Code, WTF?!
At the end, I chose to take Alvin to the new Baoguette on St. Marks since it was 1) closer to the train, 2) I never tried it before, and 3) I was trying to be a kind hostess by not dragging David’s cousin to a possibly scary hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop. We ordered two banh mis to share: the Catfish ($7) and the classic pork Baoguette ($5). Alvin laughed at me when he saw the prices. He hadn’t expected “the expensive Vietnamese sandwiches” to cost seven and under. OK, I know, $5 or $7 dollars is not a lot for a hero, but in Chinatown, a banh mi is only $3.50! Call me cheap, but those are the facts. Double the price = Expen$ive. MORE »