A few years ago there was a small Vietnamese sandwich cart stationed at a Chevron on University. They were developing quite a loyal fan base when they closed for personal reasons. A few months ago they reopened*, new and improved, in a brick and mortar shop. Still on University, this time in a small shopping center just west of Slaughter. The hubby and I headed in for a late dinner, eager to check out the new location.
The interior was clean and bright. A single television, tuned to sitcoms, hung above the two toned walls. Posters with pictures of the food provided decoration. Upon entering, we were greeted cheerfully by the gentleman behind the counter. When we asked for his recommendations, he enthusiastically directed us to the special (a banh mi dac biet), sadly informing us that they were out of his favorite, the grilled pork.
Swayed by his strong recommendations, the hubby went with the special, and I ordered a grilled beef (sans jalapenos). The sandwiches came with our choice of bagged chips and we added a can of diet coke for the hubby and a mango bubble tea for me.
We seated ourselves at one of the tables and nibbled on our chips. Within a few minutes my bubble tea arrived.
Bubble teas were a Huge Thing when the hubby and I were in college. We had multiple bubble tea shops in our college town, all of which were enthusiastically patronized by the student body. And yet, put off by the description of "tapiocia balls" and the idea of chewy beverages, I'd never gotten around to trying one. I curiously took my first sip and discovered a thin, creamy fluid with a light, fresh mango flavor. The consistency reminded me of coconut milk. An instant later my first "bubble" made it's way up the straw.
Instead of the bobos (tapioca balls) familiar from my college days, these bubbles were small rectangular pieces of gelatin. Oddly enough for someone with a deep aversion to jello, I found myself enjoying the bubbles, in part I think, because they had a slightly firmer texture. The majority were clear, though a few were orange or red, but if there was a flavor difference, I couldn't distinguish it. The bubbles were plentiful, each sip resulted in a small mouthful, and they slipped up the large straw effortlessly. As I finished my glass I realized, to my surprise, that the bottom of the cup was filled with crushed ice. It certainly was effective at keeping my drink cold, so I'm not complaining, just be forewarned that if you are fishing around for those last few bubbles...they probably aren't bubbles. : )
As I was settling into my bubble tea, our sandwiches arrived. There was a small misunderstanding where they had thought we intended to share both sandwiches and so had left jalapanos off both. However, when my husband asked about it, they quickly brought him out a side container of jalapenos to add as he wished. They further recommended the on table sriracha sauce for additional heat.
My sandwich (shown at the top of the post) featured a hearty veggie to meat ratio which was as appreciated as it is rare. The beef was formed into small meatballs and featured a light feathery flavor that I couldn't put my finger on. Almost minty, there was a hint of herbs mixed in with the lean meat, but no hint of breadcrumbs or other fillers. Nestled around the beef were cucumbers, carrots, and onions--all equally bright and crunchy. Long strands of green onion lent a surprising bite. Fresh cilantro added a classic flavor and feathery good looks. (According to the poster in the shop, the carrots are pickled, but they did not taste vinegary at all.)
The whole kit and kaboodle was piled into the bahn mi--a small french styled sandwich roll similar to a baguette with a thinner crust. The soft interior soaked up the sauce--a thin, mayo based sauce--sweet, salty, and pretty much distilled deliciousness. Often when I buy a sandwich, I expect the named flavor to dominate (the tuna in a tuna sandwich, the turkey in a turkey sandwich, etc). Here however, the flavors balanced perfectly, creating a sandwich that was much more than just a sum of its delicious parts.
The hubby adored his sandwich.
This photo shows it as delivered, he also added the jalapenos (sliced along the length, not in rounds) and the suggested sriracha sauce though he still rated it as "not that hot". He was impressed with the thit nguoi which the poster translated to "Vietnamese salami", saying it was lighter and not as salty as its American counterpart.
Both the hubby and I were impressed with Viet Sandwich. The staff was enthusiastic and full of helpful suggestions for those unused to the cuisine. The sandwiches themselves were phenomenal and the bubble tea delicious. They tell me they are planning to add soup to the menu as the weather continues to cool. We will absolutely be back and with as many people as we can take with us.
Total for the meal: $12.69 (included two sandwiches with chips, one canned soda, and one bubble tea)
*Shout out to Jeff for giving me a heads up on the reopening!
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