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Nov 29, 2006 05:53 PM

Banh Mi @ Little Vietnam Cafe (6th & Clement)

Many 'hounds lamented the closure of Little Paris and the lack of banh mi in the Clement Street neighborhood. "little Vietnam café" opened in March to fill that gap. It replaced Vege House, the Vietnamese vegetarian hole-in-the-wall previously occupied by a popular dim sum take-out. The new cafe still offers many vegetarian choices, but has a much expanded menu of prepped and wrapped (e.g., goi cuon) as well as made to order snacks and plates. A window counter has room for five stools for eating in.

The menu lists five types of banh mi:

6. Banh ni Cha Lua, $3.00
7. Banh mi Xiu Mai, $3.25
8. Banh mi Dac Biet, $3.50
9. Banh mi Thit Nuong, $3.50
10. Banh mi Ga Nuong, $3.50

The prices look high by Tenderloin/Little Saigon standards, but a $5 combo special of a banh mi with a Vietnamese coffee (iced or hot) takes some of the sting away. I ordered the #8 (Vietnamese combo cold cuts sandwich) and asked that the crumb be removed from the bread.

This was a pretty good sandwich, garnished with a good amount of pickled carrots and daikon, spritely cilantro, cucumber, sliced fresh jalapeño, mayonnaise, and seasoning sauce. The three cold cuts were cha lua (steamed pork roll), boiled ham, and red-tinted head cheese. It gets dinged for being overly wet, as the cilantro and chilis weren't drained enough. Also, the bread was heavy with a tough crust. The coffee was okay, brewed strong but too bitter.

That said, I'm glad to know that it's in the nabe and can put out a decent enough product the next time the mood strikes. While I was waiting for my sandwich, I could see a bit of a kitchen through the pass-through and the army of Vietnamese ladies working back there. Perhaps some bun or one of the soups might be a better bet here.

"little Vietnam café"
309 - 6th Ave.
San Francisco 94118

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  1. Yeah, I wasn't impressed with their banh mi.

    It seems they dropped the price by 25 cents. Do they still have the great-looking dessert selection?

    I swear I read something favorable about their other dishes but I'm not finding it.

    Nice tea shop across the street.

    There is another shop that sells banh mi, but it is way up on Clement past 19th. Haven't tried it yet.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rworange

      I see you didn't like the bread either...too bad, was hoping it was one bad bakery batch. The cold box had a bunch of desserts, but I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. However, it was cold and raining, so the idea of a cold sweet wasn't appealing enough for me to do more than a quick scan.

    2. Pardon my ignorance, but can you describe the bahn mi choices in english, too? Thanks :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Maya

        The remaining three banh mi not decoded are -

        xiu mai (aka siu mai), pork meatball
        thit nuong, grilled pork
        ga nuong, grilled chicken

      2. Went to Little Vietnam Cafe (6th & Clement) yesterday for the first time. I was looking for Little Paris. Went into the Asian restaurant supply store for some items. The cash register clerk was speaking Vietnamese. She told me about Little Vietnam Cafe (6th & Clement. Great thit nuong (grilled pork) bahn mi with traditional Vietnamese coffee. I also picked to an order of Vietnamese grilled tofu with lemongrass to go - excellent.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bkaufman

          Kamei's wonderful, no? I bought a pot there last week.

        2. Drive across the park to Irving Cafe at 23rd Ave. It's only an extra 7 minutes and worth it.

          Delicious meatball banh mi, coffee, and good other stuff (goi cuon, etc).

          1. Today's lunch included sharing a lemongrass grilled pork banh mi from Little Vietnam Cafe. Bread was much better -- lighter and more shattering crust -- plus I'd asked for some of the middle to be pulled out. But the overall effect was quite dry, enough so that I pulled it open to check to see if any mayonnaise at all had been spread on the roll. Just a teensy amount spread on but a fraction of the bread and the mayo was nearly pure white in color, not the egg yolk tinged color of my favorite places. The meat itself was very good and definitely had the charriness of real grilling. Carrots and daikon were bland, seriously underseasoned and lacking tart-sweet pickley punch. Lastly, overgrown with cilantro as well, a big wad of green in the middle, so much that I needed to pull some out in order to taste the meat. Current price is $4 + tax.

            Little Vietnam Cafe
            309 6th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118