The Early Word: Baoguette
When you open a banh mi shop in New York, you're walking into deep waters. It might be more difficult to find a perfect bowl of pho, but we have plenty of places to get mind-bendingly good banh mi.
Husband and wife restaurateurs Thao Nguyen and Michael Bao Huynh (currently of BarBao--his restaurant names leave no question about who is behind the stove) recently opened Baoguette, a small banh mi, noodle and snacks shop on Lexington in Curry Hill. The space used to be a Blimpie's, and it still looks like a scruffy sandwich shop-deli.
I tried the basic banh mi, called a "baoguette," pictured above. It's $5, which is more than the going rate for banh mi. (To me, the gold standard is Ba Xuyen, in Brooklyn, which charges $3.50.)
Baoguette's baoguette excels in the meat division. The sandwich comes with three kinds of meat product: Luscious pulled pork shoulder, rich chicken liver pate, and a thin slice of pork terrine, a patchwork of translucent fat and pink meat. But the rest of the sandwich doesn't quite do it for me--it's not as vibrant as it should be, and is a bit one-note. The pickled veggies are skimpy, as is the mayo (key!), and when you ask for the sandwich "spicy," the counterperson just throws on two sad jalapeño slices. The bread is too dry and crusty.
But look, if you're craving a banh mi with good liver pate and pork in that neighborhood, Kaluystan's isn't going to make one for you. It's not a bad thing to have a pretty good banh mi around.
61 Lexington Avenue