In case you missed it, here’s my review–albeit an informal one–of Marina’s new Banh Mi Bar that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.
This week I’m skipping a full-blown review. Instead, I’m offering up my “first impressions” for two new restaurants in town — one a recent arrival from a familiar face and the other a new venture that’s opening soon.
I’ll start with my visit to the new Banh Mi Bar in Marina, which opened almost two weeks ago as an annex of sorts to the neighboring Noodle Bar.
Banh mi sandwiches — the product of France’s colonial presence in Vietnam — combine the best of Vietnamese cuisine on a French baguette with pate.
These sandwiches have long been a staple of the food scene in the Bay Area, and now you’ll find them on the menus of several hip Asian fusion restaurants. Closer to home, both Banh Mi Bar and Chopstix feature these sandwiches.
(And for fun, I held a banh mi throwdown this weekend, pitting Banh Mi Bar against Chopstix. It honestly wasn’t much of a competition — Banh Mi Bar easily bested the sandwich I got at Chopstix. The bland, chewy sandwich at Chopstix didn’t come close matching the bold flavors at Banh Mi Bar.)
The sandwiches at Banh Mi Bar are cheap — just $3.50. All sandwiches include pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeño, pate and mayonnaise on a baguette with several options for meat.
I decided to try the BBQ pork banh mi. The baguette was warm and toasty, cradling a mix of bold, flavorful ingredients. There was a good portion of pork, balanced with the right amount of pickled veggies. The jalapeños added a spicy kick in the pants.
I also ordered a banh bao ($3), a steamed bun stuffed with a generous portion of ground pork, Chinese sausage and half of a hard-boiled egg. It was a little more gummy than I like my buns, but the fillings were very flavorful.
The Banh Mi Bar isn’t much for atmosphere. With a focus on takeaway business, rather than dining in, there aren’t tables inside, just a lot of chairs. Orders come out wrapped and ready to go, so it’s a great spot to grab lunch on-the-go.
You can make a combo with the banh mi sandwiches and the boba drinks available at sister restaurant, Noodle Bar, next door — $5 for a sandwich and boba drink, $6 with a boba smoothie.
It’s a steal of a meal, so I’m certainly willing to forgive the lack of tables for food that’s that cheap yet so tasty.
Banh Mi Bar is located at 215 Reservation Road, Suite G, in Marina. 384-6599 for more information.