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Restaurants & Bars

When is a Banh Mi not a Banh Mi?

lipoff | Mar 13, 201208:21 AM     14

I saw a tweet yesterday proclaiming that Myers + Chang has a tea-smoked duck Banh Mi for lunch, and the idea really sounded very good, and it was lunch time. I got a terrific parking space, the restaurant was maybe half-full for lunch, and those soft white chairs at the tables (not the counter seating) are really, really comfortable.

There are four different types of Banh Mi on their lunch menu, for $8 each, and the tea-smoked duck Banh Mi was a daily special, which turned out to be $12. I ordered that, and a mint-lime rickey ($5). The Banh Mi arrived with a few "prawn crackers" and a kind of slaw of marinated mild peppers.

I feel like I should be putting "Banh Mi" in quotes throughout though, because what I got was a tasty, even delicious sandwich, but it wasn't a Banh Mi. The bread wasn't Banh Mi bread, the filling wasn't Banh Mi filling, the two different sauces inside the sandwich weren't Banh Mi sauces, and the accompaniments aren't served with a Banh Mi. I don't mean to be a stickler for authenticity when the Banh Mi itself is a relatively recent product of French/Vietnamese fusion, but since when did "Banh Mi" become "sandwich with Asian filling"?

Actually, this sandwich was really quite delicious, and nothing like a Banh Mi, so it seems unfair to compare a $12 sandwich and a $5 soda (so a ~ $21 lunch, including tax and tip) to a $3.50 Banh Mi and a $2.50 bubble tea from nearby Chinatown. However, if they keep calling it a Banh Mi, it's hard not to make that comparison, and in that comparison their value doesn't compare well. As a tasty smoked duck sandwich on a crusty, pressed roll, served in comfortable surroundings, it holds its own.

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