An Early Look at Banh Mi Zon in the East Village
As the journalism business flounders, the banh mi trade booms--no one knows this better than Tai Dang, who was reportedly laid off from his job as a photographer for Newsweek, and decided to return to his native Saigon to learn to cook, then come back to the East Village to open a banh mi shop. The result of this career change is Banh Mi Zon ("zon" means "crisp and delicious"), a small storefront decorated with Dang's photos of Vietnam, serving six different kinds of banh mi, along with simple rice plates, salads, and summer rolls.
Banh mi #1: Pork roll, shredded pork, liver pate, and the fixings
As usual, the first banh mi on the menu is the classic--pork roll, pate, shredded pork, and the standard accompaniments of pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber, and cilantro. The baguette has a light, airy crumb and a crunchy crust. Everything tastes very fresh; it's a streamlined, refined banh mi, judiciously sized and tidy. Unlike the hulking flavor-bombs of Chinatown, these sandwiches are probably aimed at a non-Vietnamese audience, and lack fish sauce, as well as jalapenos. Instead, spoon on the Sriracha that sits on every table. At $5, it's a good deal for the neighborhood, but not in the larger banh mi universe.
This banh mi ($5.50) is filled with deliciously oily sardine fillets, plus the same pork roll, pate, and fixings as the number one.
Fresh, pliant summer rolls ($4.50) with shrimp are made to order, rather than being pulled from a refrigerator.
The lotus stems in this tart salad ($6) have a pleasantly crunchy, stringy texture. They're tossed in a fish sauce-lime juice dressing with pickled daikon, carrot, and small, white leek bulbs, cold poached shrimp, mint, and peanuts.
443 East 6th Street