Many 'hounds lamented the closure of Little Paris and the lack of banh mi in the Clement Street neighborhood. "little Vietnam café" opened in March to fill that gap. It replaced Vege House, the Vietnamese vegetarian hole-in-the-wall previously occupied by a popular dim sum take-out. The new cafe still offers many vegetarian choices, but has a much expanded menu of prepped and wrapped (e.g., goi cuon) as well as made to order snacks and plates. A window counter has room for five stools for eating in.
The menu lists five types of banh mi:
6. Banh ni Cha Lua, $3.00
7. Banh mi Xiu Mai, $3.25
8. Banh mi Dac Biet, $3.50
9. Banh mi Thit Nuong, $3.50
10. Banh mi Ga Nuong, $3.50
The prices look high by Tenderloin/Little Saigon standards, but a $5 combo special of a banh mi with a Vietnamese coffee (iced or hot) takes some of the sting away. I ordered the #8 (Vietnamese combo cold cuts sandwich) and asked that the crumb be removed from the bread.
This was a pretty good sandwich, garnished with a good amount of pickled carrots and daikon, spritely cilantro, cucumber, sliced fresh jalapeño, mayonnaise, and seasoning sauce. The three cold cuts were cha lua (steamed pork roll), boiled ham, and red-tinted head cheese. It gets dinged for being overly wet, as the cilantro and chilis weren't drained enough. Also, the bread was heavy with a tough crust. The coffee was okay, brewed strong but too bitter.
That said, I'm glad to know that it's in the nabe and can put out a decent enough product the next time the mood strikes. While I was waiting for my sandwich, I could see a bit of a kitchen through the pass-through and the army of Vietnamese ladies working back there. Perhaps some bun or one of the soups might be a better bet here.
"little Vietnam café"
309 - 6th Ave.
San Francisco 94118