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Saigon Banh Mi, not as good as Ba Xuyen

[This thread was moved from the Manhattan board. --The Chowhound Team]

A few weeks ago I had my first Banh Mi ever at Ba Xuyen in Sunset Park and I fear this was a huge mistake because now my standards are too high! It was a roast pork banh mi, served on amazingly light hot crusty bread, dripping with melted butter and just enough pickled carrot and daikon strips, some sort of tangy sauce, cilantro, ground peanuts and slices of jalapeno pepper. This sandwich is one of the most delicious and perfectly balanced food items I have ever eaten and as soon as I had finished eating it I couldn't wait until my next visit when I would eat another. I even thought about ordering another one right that second but I was too full.

Since I am on Mott Street a lot more often than I am in Sunset Park, I thought I'd satisfy my newly acquired banh mi craving by trying one from Saigon Banh Mi, which I had read a lot of positive things about on the internet. Although it was yummy, it was simply not in the same league of perfection as Ba Xuyen. First off, it was not served on warm bread so there is no interplay of warm bread and cold veggies and this set the tone for a lack of complexity in the rest of the sandwich. There didn't seem to be any butter on it, and too much pickle overwhelmed the other ingredients. The sandwich was also too big and I thought the pork was overly dry and crumbly, reminding me of bacon bits, whereas Ba Xuyen's roast pork came in savory tender chunks. I also could not discern any crushed peanuts, which was the surprise ingredient that I felt put Ba Xuyen's product over the top.

I'm not saying it was a bad sandwich, just that it is not as good as Ba Xuyen in my opinion, and next time I will just jump on the D train and make sure I'm hungry enough to eat 2 banh mi at Ba Xuyen instead of 1 at Saigon.

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  1. I'm in complete agreement with you. Saigon on Mott makes a very good sandwich, but cannot match Ba Xuyen for freshness or for variety for that matter. The bread, I agree as well, is that much fresher and crispier. It makes me wonder where they get that great french bread out in Sunset Park. You're making me want to do another Ba Xuyen run, because, for the life of me, I don't remember having the butter when I ordered the roast pork. I also recommend the pork meatball banh mi as well as the pate version. Their Jackfruit shake ranks amongst my favorite ice-cold summer treats. P.

    1. Damn you-now i have to see for myself. Where the #$%^&% is Sunset Park?! Car directions please.

      1. Sorry, I have no idea how to get there with a car, but if you take the D train to the 9th avenue stop in Brooklyn, Ba Xuyen is located at 4222 8th Avenue (8th btw 42nd and 43rd st.) It is worth the trip!

        Anyway, I don't want to incur the wrath of chowhound and turn this into an Outer Boroughs thread :)

        4 Replies
        1. re: bolletje

          How about hours of operation and proximity to DiFara's? (I gotta get dessert, right?)

          1. re: guttergourmet

            I wouldnt go in the evening - they do have some really nice desserts - the blackeyed pea/coconut milk and mung/riceflour/coconut concoctions among them, tho they dont seem to have quite as many desserts as previously. They make a ton of taro cake, too. Also other summer rolls, spring rolls and other small dishes to try alongside the banh mi.

            1. re: guttergourmet

              Ba Xuyen closes at 7pm (and opens at 7am, I think) but by then they could be out of some things. I went late once and they were out of bread, so no sandwiches but that was a long time ago...

              bolletje, if you're that in love (as am I) get an extra sandwich for the next day. They reheat in a toaster oven pretty well (I take out the cucumber and other veg and put it back after toasting)

              1. re: pitu

                Or, better yet, if you are going to eat it much later, or
                the next day, Ba Xuyen - as well as the good people at Saigon
                Bahn Mi - will wrap everything separately for you, so that you
                can heat it all up when you're ready. P.

          2. It's very far from DiFara's, I think.
            Timewise, I was there at around 3pm on a Sunday and they were going strong. I would imagine it doesn't stay open late into the evening hours as Banh mi seems to be more of a breakfast/lunch thing.

            For desert, they serve wonderful milkshakes in exotic flavors, including avocado.

            1. Both are great; the best in the city, in my opinion. tho I give the edge to Saigon Banh Mi b/c of their roast pork. they live and die by that pork.

              that being said, anyone can have an off day (i've had cold meat and poor toasting at ba xuyen), and the further from lunchtime, the more you chance a less-fresh product.

              full banh mi reviews, manifestos, etc. at http://porkchop-express.blogspot.com/

              1. can someone tell me if can I sit down there? The only I hate about the $2 banh mi shops downtown is that I always have to think about places to go afterwards to eat it!

                4 Replies
                1. re: lolibrarian

                  No, you can't sit in the shop, as I recall.

                  1. re: Pan

                    Pan, the old place (7th Ave) had one two-top table, but the new one (8th Ave)
                    has several tables (maybe 6?) and much more space. It's more than twice as wide as the original location.

                    1. re: pitu

                      I thought the question was about Banh Mi Saigon on Mott St. in Manhattan.

                  2. I've gone at 6 pm on a Wednesday and they were all out. I'm going to try again tomorrow afternoon. And they have 6 or 8 tables.

                    1. I believe that Ba Xuyen's bread is better because it has rice flour in it, while the places outside of Sunset Park generally use regular French bread.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Juanita

                        Thanks for clarifying that. The bread has always been a big part of the difference for me. It, along with the pickled veggies, have always struck me as being more fresh.
                        P.

                      2. Ba Xuyen is a relatively easy side trip off the Gowanus...38th or 39th St. exit depending on where you're coming from....39th st. east to 8th Ave. and turn right.