O'Mai Cafe on Clement: Kobe beef banh mi, Vietnamese iced coffe in Mason jars -- and anatomically correct Bun bo Hue [San Francisco]
I've been avoiding this place as a bit too hipsterish and possibly dumbed down until reading Rachel Khong's review of the place pointing out they served a legitimate Bun bo Hue, blood cubes and all. I checked it out at lunchtime yesterday and it indeed came fully equipped, though I found the broth a little lacking in intensity (as did Rachel). (She also recommended the carpaccio, which isn't served at lunch.)
Interestingly, Rachel's review and online dinner menus mention Rocky Mountain oysters as an ingredient, whereas the lunch menu simply mentions "pizzle." There was definitely pizzle in mine, though there may have been a bit of both.
343 Clement St. (former Java Source space).
I had a really good vegetarian bun bo hue there, and an even better vegetarian banh mi. What made the banh mi so great was their home made vegetarian hot sauce (the 'regular' hot sace contains shrimp). I couldn't get enough of this sauce, both on the sandwich and added it to the soup. Had to ask for it, as they didn't bring it to the table (although I suggested they should have it on every table).
Oh my, I really enjoyed their kobe beef banh mi sandwich. The beef was the most tender and flavorful I've ever had in a banh mi sandwich. At many other places, the beef is tough or has connective tissue, making chewing awkward. I think O'mai's beef may have been marinated to impart the wonderful flavor. I also loved the bun; Instead of a hard, brittle crust, the entire bun was soft, but with structure. The grated carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, jalepeno peppers, and sauce were fresh and in proper proportion.
The knowledgeable waitress strongly recommended this banh mi and the tofu vermicelli bowl (which she ate for lunch).
I asked her about the 'steamed meat rice crepes', (I think these are banh cuon), but she was unenthusiastic about them. I asked if they had banh khot, and she said she wished they made them.