Monday, May 5, 2014

Pho's and Banh Mi

Yesterday was family day in Brooklyn and we had a plan. Wake up early (or at least relatively early). Head out to Sunset Park. Pick up some groceries at Bravo that I can't easily get in our neighborhood. Try out a new spot for lunch. Head over to my grandparents' place mid-afternoon to hang out with the family and play with my baby cousins. Family dinner and then back home.

That was the plan. But the reality was that we got up (very) late, watched the end of the City-Everton game (happy for City!), and got to Brooklyn shortly before 4 pm. Oops. By the time we picked up our groceries and walked towards lunch, it was almost 5 pm. Even though dinner would arrive on the table maybe 90 minutes later, we had to stop for a snack. We had barely eaten anything all day, since we were still planning on lunch, and were really feeling the effects of low blood sugar.

We were short on time and decided not to detour off our route to one of the Vietnamese spots we initially thought about trying. But after talking about banh mi for three days or so, we were really in the mood for Vietnamese food. We saw a place on 8th Avenue called Pho's and Banh Mi Inc which was relatively new (opened last year) and decided to give it a try.

We split an appetizer of cha gio chay ($4.50), a set of 5 spring rolls that, according to the menu, would be "served with lettuce, basil, pickled carrot and radish with lemon fish sauce."

The spring rolls were just okay, although they were a good-sized portion for the price. They reminded us more of the vegetable spring rolls you get at a Chinese restaurant than the ones we've had at Vietnamese places. Not sure if it's because they were vegetarian and the ones we usually get have shrimp or pork and therefore more depth of flavor and possibly more herbs. The menu description said this should have basil but we didn't see or taste any basil whatsoever. A also thinks the frying style is a little different for the rolls we've had before, but we're not experts in deep frying so couldn't tell you for sure.

We also split one sandwich - the banh mi xiu mai ($4.75), the Vietnamese meatball sandwich. We've had some great meatball banh mi before, including one in Chicago that hopefully we'll write about sometime as that one's probably our favorite meatball version so far.

Each banh mi on the menu was supposed to be served with pickled carrot and radish, cucumber, cilantro, pork liver pate, mayonnaise, sweet soy sauce, and black pepper. All of the vegetable elements were there, but didn't really notice or taste any of the pate or very much mayonnaise or soy sauce.

Even though the banh mi looks relatively full from these photos, in person it seemed rather light in terms of fillings. There weren't many meatballs at all and most of them were crushed up in sauce, which probably saves on cost for them so they can spread the meatballs out and not use as many.  Even the vegetables weren't provided in large portions.

Compare this with the one I got at Banh Mi Saigon in Chinatown, and you can see a remarkable difference. That one was stuffed with vegetables and lots of cilantro. In comparison, this one was kind of empty. The meatballs did have a nice sweet sauce that had some caramelized onions and a tomato taste to them, though. They were good, but we just wished there had been more of them.

Although Pho's and Banh Mi wasn't our first choice for sandwiches yesterday, it was a good snack and it was on our way to where we needed to go. I think next time we're in Sunset Park we'll probably go to one of the other 3 Vietnamese places on our list of places to try instead, but this meal served its purpose yesterday. We felt so much better when we left!

Pho's and Banh Mi is located at 63rd Street and 8th Avenue in Sunset Park. They are cash only and provide waiter service.

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