Cafe Dore: Banh Mi. Fruitlandia: Agua de Cebada. *SD*
The bread on the Banh mi sandwich I had today for lunch at the French-Viet cafe is Out of Control. Yeah, that good.
It arrived warm with the most delicate crisp crust on a piece of French bread that I have had in San Diego. The last time I felt this crazy mad love way about bread was when I was over in Berlin on exchange. It seems so strange yet it makes perfect sense....simple bread should taste this extraordinary. I will not eat another piece of bread without this baguette in memory. It sets the bar high.
With that out of the way, I will dicuss the fillings. I was pretty dissapointed by the "Bi" which I read Kirk's passage about. It really just tasted like shredded dry white pork tenderloin. However, the restrained yet -oh so wonderful- use of sour fish sauce brought some areas back to life [and also tasted great when the bread got a little love from this lovely pungent elixir]. I did enjoy the sparse almost bean thread-esque thin strands of gelatinous skin. I think I would have prefered the huskier tasting meat from the shoulder of the pig with some skin.
The cukes and daikon and carrot juliennes were refreshing and very nice - but almost too light. I am taken by the herbal bright jolt of the wispy cilantro.
I think what stood out the most in regards to this sandwich was its balance of ingredients.
I am already planning my revist - but I think I will go the pate and charcuterie route next time.
Anyone try their escargot soup? Bun Oc I'll get this next time - the tomato broth piques my interest.
I just wanted to mention that I really dig the old coffee shop like feel to the place and that you can watch the senior citizenry playing games - checkers etc outside.
I wanted to try this Agua de Cebada - as mention in my last FL post. Its a barley drink - but I was expecting something similar to the clear cold tea I drunk when I was working for Japanese and Koreans in the summers.
What I got however, was fantastically odd! Its almost like a creamy barley horchata - with a distinct milk coffee taste. I really liked it - its probably one of my new favorite Agua Frescas.
So when was the last time you "just had pork tenderloin" on a $2.75 sandwich? Actually it's my wife who enjoys Bi - for her texture plays a large role. Don't forget the roasted rice powder that is used on the Bi. I enjoy the Dac Biet - several times it has been very, very good - perfect amount of pate, head cheese(but not always), etc. If you enjoy a good Xiu Mai (meatball) Banh Mi, Saigon Sandwiches and Deli makes a nice version. On any given day, based on the freshness of the bread, either one of these two shops can be better than the other. The Oc at Dore is tough and flavorless. The Bo Kho is pretty good, especially nice for breakfast, the Hu Tieu My Kho was interesting, they used a lot of dried shrimp along with the usual ground pork. You can do much better at other places for those dishes, but I must say Cafe Dore has an interesting "atmosphere".........did you count the number of males in comparison to females, and was anyone obeying the no smoking sign? And what were the video games being played in the back...it must have been something pretty darn good in order to attract all the attnetion of middle aged males, don't you think?
I guess I wasn't thinking of the price when I was asessing whether I thought the bi tasted delicious. Though I am having trouble understanding your first question- [I am an amateur in Vietnamese cuisine] -- can you explain?
If its the texture of the little threads of skin described above - I can see why your wife likes it. That was my favorite part.
Truth be told it could have just been meatless and I would loved that sandwich for the sake of the bread veggies and the fish sauce.
Where can I get good Oc and can you explain the tomato broth and similar based soups in viet cuisine?
Yea, there were a couple of guys behind me that never looked up from the gambling machine. The big screen tv was on some infomercial. Two older gentlemen were enjoying a game out on the table and the son (I am guessing) was really nice and helpful in taking my sandwich order. Just us guys there - although I thought I spotted a latina cook out of the corner of my eye.
Bi is simply shredded pork meat and skin - some people call it the rind - so it should taste like pork, and the skin that was your favorite part, makes up Bi. And the meat is what is doused with the flavor of fish sauce you described. Actually, I think the Bi at Cafe Dore is pretty moist compared to others. And many places give you such a scant amount.
Bun Rieu is a Northern Vietnamese, tomato-seafood(crab) based noodle soup. The flavor should be slighty tangy, sweet, very savory, and pungent. It is usually served with fried tofu, and "patties" of mashed seafood(crab)-egg sort of like a fish cake. This is often served with "Oc". Also, the "Bun" should be thinner than the rice noodles used for Bun Bo Hue. I was once told that Bun Rieu was a soup originally made with brown rice paddy crab, and all parts of crab was used to make the soup. It is quite labor intensive, and you'll find that many will claim that they can only get good Bun Rieu made by their Mother or an Aunt. I've had home made Bun Rieu twice and can attest to the taste and quality of well made Bun Rieu.
Most of the Oc I've come across is tough and flavorless, it is usually served with a dish of sauce for dipping. The best Oc I've had was stewed with garlic and onions and served at friends home:
I've had an interesting "dumpling" of sorts made with Oc recently at Binh Dan Restaurant in Westminster. I've also had the Ốc Xào Lăn from Que Huong right across the street from Cafe Dore....it wasn't very good.
That said, my Wife and Ed Dibble( see his comment on this thread - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/481132 ) enjoy the Bun Rieu from Mien Trung.
Try out the Hu Tieu My Tho Kho at Pho King - order it "dry" soup on the side(a pork and tomato broth), or the Hu Tieu Mi Kho - nice combination of different noodles, sweet soy on the side, uses Chinese celery instead of Cai Cuc(chrysanthemum leaf - what I knew as Shingiku growing up) which many places serve with their Hu Tieu.
If you want something really pungent try the Bun Mam at Nhu Y.
Fruitlandia's cantaloupe water is one of the most refreshing drinks ever. I love that it has miniscule dice of the melon that you periodically encounter. Made me smile and think of boba tea.
There were a bunch of cops in line today at Fruitlandia. The place was understably jamming on this summer like day. Mango agua fresca.....estoy enmorado.
Ok - Cafe Dore Update!
I had the deluxe sandwich $2.75 - that i brought with me to work today. Bread - is still amazing as ever - I wouldnt doubt that they put rice flour with the baguette dough. I enjoyed these fillings so much better than the bi which was just ok. Mmm - pate and a little mayo mixed together with cilantro and jalapeno --- so good. I really liked the thin chinese roast pork with its subtle sweet star anise flavor. =)
I had the egg and ham sandwich today - very good with the viet bacon and runny egg yet I missed the pickles and pate.
EE had the dac biet - this is my favorite from Dore. Perfection.
We shared the Xiu mai - Meatball. Not much discernable tomato sauce-- I loved the inclusion of the chinese sausage slice. The meatballs were moist and contained minced shrimp. Just too much pepper.
Go next door and pick up a Grass jelly drink at Saigon's - its got that addicting mate flavor.
The guy manning the front was really helpful and kind. People were definitely lighting up Kirk.