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banh mi

c
cambridgedoctpr Feb 8, 2011 01:43 PM

http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/20...

i wonder how we well we do in boston?

  1. MichaelB Feb 24, 2011 08:25 PM

    Did something happen to Pho Viet in the Allston food court (attached to what used to be Super 88 and is now...Hong Kong Supermarket, I think.)? I'm surprised no one's mentioned them. I haven't been in a few months but they've been my favorite since I tried them a few years ago. They grill the meats (for the grilled beef, pork, or chicken sandwiches) fresh to order, which makes them much slower than other places, but much better as well. I also like Mei Sum in Chinatown and the two Ba Le places on Dot Ave, and I'll have to try King Do again now that they've upgraded (tried one a few years ago - way too salty). I do like 163 sandwich shop on Harrison but I find that their raw onion slices overwhelm everything on the sandwich and mess up the banh mi balance.

    btw, Tatsu, those ladies in the Chinatown supermarket next to the jewelery store were from Ba Le, or at least that's what I heard when that place was closing. There was MUCH gnashing of teeth on this board when that happened. It was my first banh mi experience as well; therefore my sentimental favorite.

    -----
    Ba Le Cafe
    1449 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, MA

    Pho Viet
    1095 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

    28 Replies
    1. re: MichaelB
      j
      Jenny Ondioline Feb 24, 2011 08:31 PM

      No Pho Viet is still there and still the best in town.

      -----
      Pho Viet
      1095 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

      1. re: Jenny Ondioline
        StriperGuy Feb 25, 2011 05:20 AM

        I give Pho Viet and Mei Sum a tie score myself. Depends on which sandwich you like.

        -----
        Pho Viet
        1095 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

        1. re: StriperGuy
          MC Slim JB Feb 25, 2011 06:03 AM

          As I've often noted, I think Pho Viet is a bit more generous with their protein fillings than most.

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          -----
          Pho Viet
          1095 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

          1. re: MC Slim JB
            StriperGuy Feb 25, 2011 11:13 AM

            I agree, re Pho Viet particularly on the grilled pork, terriyaki beef, etc.

            But somehow Mei Sum's have a certain balance, I love the thai bird chillies, and the way she cuts the cilantro with a scissors...

            -----
            Pho Viet
            1095 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

            1. re: StriperGuy
              opinionatedchef Apr 24, 2011 10:47 PM

              stripey et al, i want to try this place soon. i like the fact that the beef is marinated; is the pork marinated before grilling? what condiment/topping choices or standards should i expect? New to this.... Also, have you ever put 2 banh mi worth of filling on one banh mi? do you really think that would ruin the flavor balance or do you have a 'sure, why not?' response?

              p.s. as long as i'm there, is there some particularly excellent dish i should get for dinner later?(if not, i'll get some schwarma to compare-at Falafel King and Garlic 'n Lemons and Azama!)th you.

              i wonder if the produce section of the market has banana flowers......................

              -----
              Azama Grill
              54 Harvard Ave, Boston, MA 02134

      2. re: MichaelB
        galangatron Feb 24, 2011 08:46 PM

        pho viet is definitely still there. they have good banh mi but the dac biet (mislabeled as "ham" on the menu) is pretty weak

        1. re: MichaelB
          nsenada Feb 25, 2011 08:08 AM

          That was my first, too, in the Thai Binh (sp?) supermarket. Didn't realize they were from Ba Le.

          -----
          Ba Le Cafe
          1449 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, MA

          1. re: nsenada
            MichaelB Feb 25, 2011 10:37 AM

            Thai Binh!! that was it. never actually bought anything in that market, but the sandwiches were fantastic. When the word went out that the sandwich stand was leaving there was much despair, but soon after some intrepid hound (galleygirl I think) posted that they were actually an outpost of Ba Le, and there was much rejoicing.

            -----
            Ba Le Cafe
            1449 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, MA

            1. re: MichaelB
              opinionatedchef Apr 24, 2011 10:44 PM

              An Asian foodie i recently met recommended the banh mi at a place in Dorchester w/ Paris in the title, or in a shop w/ an eiffel tower on the sign?? anyone??

              1. re: opinionatedchef
                chefematician Apr 25, 2011 12:49 PM

                They probably meant Ba Le.

                -----
                Ba Le Cafe
                1449 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, MA

                1. re: chefematician
                  MC Slim JB Apr 28, 2011 09:14 AM

                  Almost certainly, since Ba Le is the Vietnamese word for Paris.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                  -----
                  Ba Le Cafe
                  1449 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, MA

                2. re: opinionatedchef
                  Johnresa Apr 27, 2011 06:15 PM

                  They may have meant King Do Baguette and Pastry

                  1. re: Johnresa
                    j
                    joebloe Apr 27, 2011 07:54 PM

                    King Do no longer exists and has been replaced by La Baguette, although I'm certain it's the same owners.

                    1. re: joebloe
                      opinionatedchef Apr 27, 2011 10:11 PM

                      joe,does la baguette have a sign showing the eiffel tower, or 'paris'?

                      1. re: opinionatedchef
                        d
                        dot_boston Apr 28, 2011 06:37 AM

                        It's Ba Le that has the Eiffel Tower on their sign. I've had their banh mi a couple of times and enjoyed them, although I'm no expert. They also have a number of prepared dishes that you can take to go (it's all to go, there is no seating), as well as pre-packaged foods in a refrigerated case.

                        -----
                        Ba Le Cafe
                        1449 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, MA

                        1. re: opinionatedchef
                          MichaelB Apr 28, 2011 09:19 AM

                          Ba Le is a rendering of "Paris" in Vietnamese, hence the EIffel Tower on the sign. OC, in answer to your question upthread, they don't grill the meat fresh to order the way Pho Viet does but the other aspects of the experience - the vegetables, the bread, the seasonings - are top-notch. They also have a wider variety of vietnamese fillings than some other places I've seen - shredded pork skin, those bouncy meatballs, etc. Plus the people there are very nice and there's a wide array of other vietnamese treats in the store. Very much worth a visit.

                          Note that I'm referring to the Banh Mi Ba Le store about a mile north of Fields Corner on Dot. Ave. - it's really much closer to Savin Hill; not the Ba Le Cafe (which I like as well) which is right in Fields Corner. I've always assumed that they're run by the same people but given how many vietnamese sandwich places in the US are named Ba Le - it's like the "ray's pizza" of banh mi! - I'm not 100% sure. One other place in Fields Corner is Chau's Bakery - on the outbound side of Dot Ave right near the T station. I had their banh mi years ago and it was fine but not as fresh or good as Ba Le so I haven't been there lately, but if you're doing a horizontal comparison it might be worth trying.

                          Final note for OC re Pho Viet - if you haven't had their grilled pork or - surprisingly - their grilled chicken breast, you should. Both are fantastic, particularly the pork.

                          -----
                          Banh Mi Ba Le
                          1052 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester, MA 02125

                          Ba Le Cafe
                          1449 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, MA

                          Pho Viet
                          1095 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

                          1. re: MichaelB
                            opinionatedchef Apr 28, 2011 09:44 AM

                            michael, thanks so much for all this help!( i did have the grilled pork at pho viet- delish) and thnx slim; now i finally got my answer to my eiffel tower question!

                            This will be fun. Michael, is the shredded pork skin crunchy or soft?(I only know skin when it's on chicharrones or that thai pork belly dish i had last week at s and i.) And the meatballs- do they haveother things in them like ginger, scallion, ....?
                            I was hoping to get meatballs when i went to 163 last week 'cuz a CH said they have them, but either they don't or they were out of them (" NO MEATBALL!!!!" screamed at me three times.)

                            1. re: opinionatedchef
                              galangatron Apr 28, 2011 11:45 AM

                              bì (shredded pork skin) is chewy

                              1. re: galangatron
                                MC Slim JB Apr 28, 2011 12:40 PM

                                I'd add "pale, bland and tough" to that description of bi. I believe the preparation is usually boiled or steamed. My least favorite of the widely available banh mi protein options.

                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                1. re: MC Slim JB
                                  MichaelB Apr 28, 2011 12:52 PM

                                  I agree re all three descriptors for the pork skin; I tried it once and haven't felt the need to get it again. To my palate it's more of a texture sensation than a taste delight.

                                  My experience of vietnamese meatballs is limited to the ones that come with 7 courses of beef (at Anh Hong or Pho2000) - definitely bouncy, probably seasoned with fish sauce?, not sure about ginger or scallion. I tend to go for the grilled beef so I can't really comment on the ones at Ba Le except to say that i'm pretty sure I've seen them there. I also don't know if they're beef or chicken or something else.

                                  1. re: MichaelB
                                    MC Slim JB Apr 28, 2011 01:04 PM

                                    La Baguette does a banh mi with a nice juicy pork meatball in what I believe is a tomato sauce. It's now owned by a sister of the original King Do Bakery owners, and has been physically reconfigured to seem not so cavernous.

                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                                      opinionatedchef Apr 28, 2011 02:28 PM

                                      well that certainly helps clear up all the confusion about "the same lady as hau giang " in this thread's earlier posts!

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef
                                        opinionatedchef Apr 29, 2011 06:16 PM

                                        can yall tell me if Ba le and LA Baguette are open on Sundays and is that an o.k. time to go?thnx much

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef
                                          g
                                          grant.cook Apr 29, 2011 07:47 PM

                                          Pretty sure they'd be open on Sunday. There, IMHO, isn't really a bad time to go.. Ba Le can get a line - the store has like two sides, and the Bahn Mi's get made on the left. As a WASPY caucasian, it gets tough when everyone is speaking in a language that is not english...

                                          But King Do/LA is usually pretty sparse people wise - never had to wait behind more than 2 people.

                                          If you are heading down that way, top it off with a visit to Brothers Crayfish...

                                          -----
                                          Ba Le Cafe
                                          1449 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, MA

                                          1. re: grant.cook
                                            opinionatedchef Apr 29, 2011 08:07 PM

                                            no clue what that is. crayfish place duh? i'll google unless you want to tell me to get someth special.....thanks btw!
                                            p.s. what's a waspy caucasian- docs and no sox, blonde hair blue eyes, a coach wallet, st. paul's parking sticker??

                                            1. re: opinionatedchef
                                              g
                                              grant.cook Apr 30, 2011 07:10 AM

                                              http://www.yelp.com/biz/brothers-craw...

                                          2. re: opinionatedchef
                                            MC Slim JB Apr 29, 2011 08:47 PM

                                            I believe both are open on Sundays.

                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                2. re: opinionatedchef
                                  threedogs Apr 29, 2011 08:23 PM

                                  hahaha "NO MEATBALL" X3

                                  That alone would have made the trip worthwhile to me, haha.

                3. n
                  normnew Feb 24, 2011 01:56 PM

                  I've been looking for banh mi for awhile out here in Newton, didn't realize we had one as close as Bobolicious. Haven't gotten there yet but imagine my surprise when I was at the Whole Foods on Washington St yesterday and they had them in their prepared sandwiches. Never having had one before, not an expert, but thought it was delicious!

                  1. n
                    nightsky Feb 18, 2011 02:40 PM

                    Anyone know what happened to Lu's? They were dependably good.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nightsky
                      galangatron Feb 21, 2011 12:23 PM

                      they moved inside the pho hoa in chinatown for a short time after the original location on knapp street closed. i don't know what happened to them after that

                    2. m
                      myasorubka Feb 17, 2011 09:16 AM

                      I love the Momogoose truck at MIT. The banh mi is delicious - flavorful and fresh. And super-cheap.

                      1. MeffaBabe Feb 14, 2011 09:01 AM

                        I have never had the Banh Mi in Dot but I have to say the ones from the 163 Sandwich Place on Harrison Ave in Chinatown are the absolute best in the neighborhood. I have yet to have anything from this small establishment that wasn't delicious. They also do the best frozen drinks and has the best jasmine tea.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MeffaBabe
                          nsenada Feb 17, 2011 07:47 AM

                          I love their fried spring rolls, too (oddly, I prefer the vegetarian ones with wood ear mushrroms).

                          1. re: nsenada
                            nsenada Feb 17, 2011 09:11 AM

                            Just got a BBQ beef from 163, and asked about the vegetarian spring rolls - looks like they have been discontinued, sadly, due to overwhelming preference for meat.

                        2. MC Slim JB Feb 14, 2011 04:37 AM

                          Check out this very entertaining takedown of the NY Times banh mi article in Serious Eats by former Boston food scientist / gadfly / burger analyst J. Kenji Alt-Lopez: http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/02/rant-what-the-new-york-times-doesnt-know-abou.html

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          17 Replies
                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                            maillard Feb 14, 2011 09:39 AM

                            I loved Kenji's response to the article, but I do sort of wish that the author was correct about the spread on banh mi being aioli. I've never had one due to my Jimmy Fallon-level hatred of mayonnaise. Is it possible to get a banh mi without mayo? Perhaps with lots of sriracha instead? Or would there be no point...?

                            1. re: maillard
                              MeffaBabe Feb 14, 2011 10:12 AM

                              I think it is more a butter based spread than it is mayonnaise. I have never associated the spread as being mayo just butter

                              1. re: MeffaBabe
                                yumyum Feb 14, 2011 10:33 AM

                                I think most places around town use kewpie mayonnaise, and some places mix the kewpie with butter. But yes, you can request it without.

                                http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I...

                                1. re: yumyum
                                  maillard Feb 14, 2011 10:37 AM

                                  Kewpie! Those bottles are almost cute enough to cancel out my mayonnaise hatred. But not quite. I am definitely going to try some banh mi at the first opportunity.Thanks for the info.

                            2. re: MC Slim JB
                              tatsu Feb 16, 2011 09:30 PM

                              I traveled all the way to Ba Xuyen in Brooklyn's Chinatown after scouring hundreds of pics online. Luckily I met up with an old friend I hadn't seen in years, so that was nice.

                              In pictures, the bread looks perfect and I loved the idiosyncratic burn marks on the edge of the bun from the toaster oven. The fillings looked right, I just could not wait to try it! Unfortunately my sample was marred by to much butter mayo. But I downed it happily.

                              For some reason the best banh mi for me was one of the earliest shops, inside C-Mart by the jewelry store. I can never remember the name since there really wasn't one. It was my first and best one, back in the days of $1 Banh Mi, no matter the filling. I used to have 2 of them twice a week!

                              Personally I love the butter mayo. That yellow translucent goo in the food service tray makes me say ummmm..ami. My deal breaker is jalapenos, I don't like them in Banh Mi. I much rather have pickled or fresh bird's eye chili. I wouldn't make the accusation that jalapenos are inauthentic or Americanization, but I would also wouldn't doubt it.

                              These days, I guess Ba Le is as good as any.

                              1. re: tatsu
                                MeffaBabe Feb 17, 2011 06:06 AM

                                I believe the 163 uses the birds eye chili not jalapenos and this is the reason I love their sandwiches so much because they are the only place that uses them here in Chinatown (boston).

                                1. re: MeffaBabe
                                  jgg13 Feb 17, 2011 06:26 AM

                                  I also prefer the bird chiles, but 3/4 of the time they don't actually put them on for me when i ask for it to be spicy. I don't know if there's some other magic word to say

                                  1. re: MeffaBabe
                                    StriperGuy Feb 17, 2011 06:40 AM

                                    Mei sum does them with birds eye, and I agree FAR better then the jalapeno. Jalapeno flavor is just not quite right, though it will do in a pinch.

                                    1. re: StriperGuy
                                      kobuta Feb 19, 2011 06:28 PM

                                      I ask for the bird chilies at Mei Sum too, but the woman needs better practice at spreading that stuff out on the sandwich. I usually get clumps of no chili to a fire-inducing bite where I feel like my tongue will burn off soon.

                                    2. re: MeffaBabe
                                      MC Slim JB Feb 25, 2011 12:32 AM

                                      Sub City, in the former Mike's Banh Mi space in Chinatown, also uses bird chilies; pickled jalapeno slices are an option there, too.

                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                      -----
                                      Sub City
                                      42 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                    3. re: tatsu
                                      galangatron Feb 17, 2011 08:07 AM

                                      i love the butter mayo too. especially the one at ba le bakery on dot ave in dorchester. i usually ask for a little extra

                                      1. re: tatsu
                                        opinionatedchef Apr 27, 2011 11:40 PM

                                        tatsu, have you and galang also had the banh mi at LA Baguette but you prefer Ba Le Cafe? i may head down to Dot today and wonder if Ba Le is worth it. I didn't read any description from you two. Is it freshly grilled meat, served warm?Thanks much.

                                        -----
                                        Ba Le Cafe
                                        1449 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, MA

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef
                                          threedogs Apr 29, 2011 08:25 PM

                                          Did you ever get down to Dot on Thursday, o-c?

                                          1. re: threedogs
                                            opinionatedchef May 1, 2011 12:46 PM

                                            no; this wk!

                                            1. re: threedogs
                                              opinionatedchef May 1, 2011 12:56 PM

                                              you wanna go w/ us? want me to pick up some for you?

                                              1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                threedogs May 1, 2011 06:01 PM

                                                Hey, that sounds awesome. I don't have anything planned for Thursday. I'll send you a pm!

                                        2. re: MC Slim JB
                                          d
                                          dfan Feb 17, 2011 11:14 AM

                                          The best thing about Kenji's post is all the indignant commenters piling on who are self-proclaimed "bahn mi" [sic] experts.

                                        3. j
                                          joebloe Feb 14, 2011 12:20 AM

                                          Being a very long time banh mi fanatic from San Jose and OC, I think Boston ranked quite high. The best by far is Hau Giang on Dot Ave until they lost their lease...always a huge crowd and long wait on weekend for a reason. The author is right in saying to avoid any banh mi $6 or more; anything above $3.50 is excessive.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: joebloe
                                            c
                                            Chocomom Feb 16, 2011 04:36 PM

                                            FYI, if you are craving Hau Giang, crave no more.

                                            While the former Hau Giang owner says she might open another shop if the opportunity presents itself, you don't have to wait to savor their subs anymore.

                                            Go visit LA Baguette on Dot Ave formerly King Do. The woman that used to make the subs at Hau Giang is now their resident Banh Mi maker. This woman still remember us after all these years and still remembers how we like our subs.
                                            Along with the traditional banh mi (this place nor any other now offers the pork loin cold cut anymore) offers about 6+ more different types:

                                            Traditional : Delicious as before
                                            Grilled Chicken: A bit too dry for me.
                                            Grilled Pork: lovely smokey flavor
                                            Grilled Pork w/Pate: This is my new all time fave (not on menu but reqested it)
                                            Grilled Beef: Haven't tried yet but next on my list
                                            Sardine: Don't think I will be trying anytime soon heck at all.
                                            There's a house special, veggie and I believe a ham type one also.

                                            Only slight difference is the bread, it's on a french baguette that they bake in house and not light and shattering like the traditional banh mi bread.

                                             
                                            1. re: Chocomom
                                              galangatron Feb 17, 2011 08:09 AM

                                              they also have a turkey banh mi on the menu

                                              1. re: Chocomom
                                                j
                                                joebloe Feb 17, 2011 10:12 PM

                                                Some days their banh mi is really good and some days it suxs like Lee's banh mi in Cali. They tried to copy Lee's coffee and Lee's smoothie but not even close. That's why the place is always virtually empty and gone through the 3rd or 4th new owner in a few years.

                                                The Hau Giang owner told me she's not going back to banh mi but her kids wanna go higher end with new projects. Their restaurant in Weymouth flopped after a few months and their new construction on Dot Ave is at a standstill forever now.

                                                1. re: Chocomom
                                                  opinionatedchef Apr 27, 2011 11:06 PM

                                                  mom, i might try trekking down to this spot today, thurs., based on your description of the grilled pork and pate(off menu request). the pork is grilled there and served warm?

                                                  also, have you, or others, tried anything that is really good at the Guatemalan Antojitos place next door? thnx much.

                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                    galangatron Apr 28, 2011 10:35 AM

                                                    the pork in the regular banh mi thit heo nuong (grilled pork banh mi) has been grilled and is served warm

                                                    1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                      galangatron Apr 28, 2011 10:37 AM

                                                      try the tamales de chipilín (tamales filled with masa and chipilín leaves)

                                                      1. re: galangatron
                                                        opinionatedchef Apr 28, 2011 11:20 AM

                                                        that's terrific news! i've been wanting to try chipilin leaves since i learned about them just recently. thanks much.

                                                2. d
                                                  djd Feb 8, 2011 01:47 PM

                                                  I've been enjoying this gentleman's writeups of his own search:

                                                  http://buttali.blogspot.com/search/la...

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