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Feb 21, 2013 07:21 AM

Sa Pa Vietnamese - Anyone been?

Looks like the new Vietnamese lunch (Bahn Mi?) place Sa Pa has opened on Bedford St, where Hot Tomatoes used to be. Has anyone been? Menu online anywhere? Would love to know how it is and what they've got before trekking over there in the cold!

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  1. From what I've heard, it sounds more like a pho joint. Most complete description came from BostonChefs: "Kingston Station owner Ky Nguyen and chef Dana Love. Named for a region in Nguyen’s native Vietnam. Menu includes mushroom pâté, vegetarian pho broth and meat offerings like chicken, beef short ribs, sake-cured salmon."

    Glad to know the paper is finally off the windows.

    7 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      So, I decided to brave the cold and make the hike over there. First impressions were largely positive. Has a definite Bon Me feel (pick your format: Bahn Mi, Pho, or Bun; pick your protein: miso salmon, braised beef, pork meatballs, ginger chicken, marinated tofu) but seems to be striving for at least a bit more authenticity.

      Braised beef pho was pretty good, and came with the proper side of beansprouts, lime and fresh herbs (as well as small containers of hoisin and sriracha). There were a few idiosyncrasies though: broth was a tad too sweet, lacked some of the classic star anise flavor, and noodles were not typical pho noodles but more like chinese rice sticks (mei fun?). I assume it's just a thin version of Vietnamese bun that they are using to only have to deal with one type noodles across all of their dishes. Still, it felt a bit "off."

      Overall, though I'd certainly go back and try a bahn mi, as the protein I had was pretty good and the pate behind the counter looked tasty. As they hit their stride, would be great to see them add some cha gio to the menu as well as a few revolving specials.

      Would love to hear others' thoughts....

      1. re: keith

        I braved the cold for this, too. With the caveat that this is only their Day 3, that was the least whelming bowl of pho I've had in a long time. I suspect the use of flimsy plastic takeout bowls even for eat-in orders drives their decision to keep their broth barely hot; the temperature was lukewarm by the time I sat down, cold by the time I added accouterments.

        A tiny portion for $9 ordered from a counter, including a couple of bare ladelfuls of a vegetable-based broth that I didn't find very flavorful. Pork meatballs were okay, a trifle dry. Check out the pic: that's a *large* Chinese takeout container next to it, which was stuffed full of ice-cold bean sprouts and less-than-pristine herbs, plus a couple of lime wedges.

        Pho Pasteur and Pho Hoa are maybe five blocks away? Certainly no more than a five minute walk. Their $7 or $8 pho has ten times the flavor and about five times the volume of this meager version, and are served almost boiling hot in a china bowl with a proper soup spoon by a waiter.

        (I know: it's Chinatown, Jake. But in this case, Chinatown is *right over there*.)

        To add insult to injury, I was so hungry afterward that I bought an order of fresh rolls ($5) from the Momogoose truck. These were so resoundingly mediocre -- might have had a bit of flavor if they weren't ridiculously overstuffed with rice noodles, like a burrito that's 95% rice -- that after eating half of one I tossed the rest. Ugh.

        In Chow terms, I just grounded into a double play. Bleh. Tomorrow is another day.

        1. re: MC Slim JB

          I didn't use the beansprouts, so my bowl was still plenty hot, but I agree that with Chinatown a few blocks away this skimpy rendition of Pho will be a tough sell. I think I was trying to be too charitable, given that it's only day three, but I agree that it was underwhelming.

          I did think the meats looked pretty good though (and my beef was pleasantly tasty in a fatty way), so I'll probably try their Bahn Mi before passing final judgement (still, I have trouble believing they'd match up to Mei Sum or 163...and I know they'd be double the price).

          Sorry about the double play. I tend to avoid Momogoose at all costs as I've never had found anything I like there.

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Also... lulz from the one 5 star Yelp rating for a chicken banh mi.

          2. re: keith

            When you mentioned noodles that were thinner than bun (how is that even possible?), I got scared. Then I saw MC's photo and that sealed the deal. No one should EVA be hungry after a proper bowl of pho.

            1. re: digga

              Yes, no one should evah be hungry after pho!!

              That's why it was invented!

          3. re: MC Slim JB

            Hit the nail on the head MC. I also had to go get another lunch after my trip (Mei Sum though).

            At least your picture shows that the broth was hot enough to get the noodles to separate... I had a giant sticky ball of noodles that required fork-pulling to get manageable bites. Had to put so much siracha into the thing looking for some flavor that I had a hot sauce soup by the end. Also, those spoons pissed me off.

            Beef was tasty but simple and watery when I watched the server tong it into the bowl.

          4. Went last week. The bun was tasty, had the shredded beef with it. Very juicy and tender. I thought the pho was bland and I agree it was on the sweet side. I will continue to go to the pho joints for the real deal. I will probably go for the bahn mi and bun here.

            1. I went today and had a sake cured salmon banh mi. They have plain mayo, but I got the sweet and spicy type. I liked the pickled carrots and daikon, but should have asked if they had those bird chilies that are so good on the Chinatown versions.

              The sandwich was expensive for a banh mi ($7, I think?) but it was massive. Bread was not as crispy as my usual spots, but toasted, and reasonably good. The salmon was excellent - really well-cured, with great texture and flavor, and they didn't skimp on quantity.

              I will definitely go back.

              3 Replies
              1. re: nsenada

                That sounds like a spicy (salmon/tuna roll) banh mi. Why haven't I thought of that before? Brilliant!

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  Yeah, I actually ordered the braised beef but they got it wrong. When I saw the salmon, I was psyched.

                2. re: nsenada

                  They now have a "bahn-rito" version of this in a whole wheat wrap with brown rice, kimchi, grapes, carrots, daikon and the mushroom pate. A bit odd, but for those whose metabolisms can't handle eating a sandwich on baguette more than once a week, a nice option.

                3. 3 of us went today, 1 VN food novice & 2 chowhounds, all female - fwiw. We had 2 noodle salad with ginger chicken and 1 braised beef banh mi. Agree with previous reviewers about the bread, which was less crispy (freshly baked, but likely frozen dough) & quantity of noodles more for the price. The only other thing we would've wished for was more flavor on the chicken. HOWEVER, the quantity was actually perfect, meats were tender & plentiful, veggies were fresh, sauces good/marinades were plentiful. The drinks: VN iced coffee and spiced limeade were fantastic. Coffee not AS sweet as in VN, and spicy limeade was fresh and delicious. Atmosphere is fresh, place is super clean, music was great & we all agreed if we didn't know better we would've thought we were in Manhattan or Brooklyn (SoHo or Dumbo). Of note, the owner was walking around asking diners what they liked & didn't like, very friendly. Would've loved pics of SaPa, but the posters of other famous VN sites & family photos from the 60s or so were great. This is a great addition to downtown Boston & likely a Chowhound work-in-progress.