Banh Mi Inspired Dishes at Los Angeles Restaurants
It's still possible to meet folks that have never heard of banh mi, the Vietnamese baguette sandwich that is typically stuffed with pickled carrot and daikon, sliced jalapeno, cilantro and a meat variety. But among urban food lovers, traditional banh mi is now a widely sought-after sandwich (in LA, there are at least three food trucks slinging regular banh mi). But now the trend is to knock off the banh mi -- put a twist on the sandwich if you will. As an ode to the bona fide banh mi, the menus at the following six LA restaurants all feature a banh mi wannabe worth eating:
Eggs Banhedict at 1321 Downtown Taproom Bistro: For yours truly, the South Bay was simply where the nearest in-mall Chick-fil-A operated; but now, with the recent unveiling of 1321 Downtown, there is (finally) playful American pub fare feeding today's assertive diner. While dinner's supper plates are positively hearty, and there is a Smoked Pork Banh Mi listed under "Burgers," for weekend brunch, 1321 whips up an excellent Eggs Banhedict -- piled with your usual banh mi ingredients, but topped with poached eggs and rooster hollandaise.
1321 Downtown Taproom Bistro, 1321 Sartori Avenue, at Marcelina Avenue (310-618-1321 or 1321downtown.com)
Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi at Mendocino Farms: Chef Judy Han will often tweak her sandwich menu to include seasonal offerings; but we hate to imagine how her cult following would react if she took off the infamous Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi -- crispy, crumbly braised and caramelized pork belly on Breadbar's ciabatta. Naturally, Chef Judy would just add another banh mi for spring -- this one stuffed with lemongrass-marinated steak with chili aioli and house made sweet chili sauce.
Mendocino Farms, 300 South Grand Avenue, at West Third Street (213-620-1114 or mendocinofarms.com for additional locations)
Banh Mi Poutine at The Gorbals: It was traditional banh mi that was intended for a staff meal one night -- but the bread supply ran empty. Without wasting banh mi's integral -- and delicious -- ingredients of pickled carrots and cucumbers, the resourceful chefs at The Gorbals substituted one carb for another: sliced potatoes. It's a pulled pork banh mi atop French fries -- with melted mozzarella -- easily one of LA's weirdest fries and banh mi knock-offs.
The Gorbals, 501 South Spring Street, at South Spring Street (213-488-3408 or thegorbalsla.com)
Banh Mi Spring Roll at Sage: Echo Park's beloved organic vegan bistro might offer a vegan "Vietnamese Sandwich" (aka banh mi) as a daily special, but its lunch menu has a standing hors d'oeuvre called Banh Mi Spring Roll, which of course, flaunts banh mi's usual veggie ingredients -- and it's all wrapped in kale.
Sage, 1700 West Sunset Boulevard, at Logan Street (213-989-1718 or sageveganbistro.com)
"Banh Mi" at Red Medicine: Red Medicine offers straightforward banh mi fare for its Beverly Hills lunch goers (shall it be pork or chicken?), but at dinner, the controversial not-that-Vietnamese Vietnamese canteen offers a small plate called "Banh Mi" (those quotes end and begin with Red Medicine), which is simply a complicated-looking art project of $16 foie gras and pate de campagne.
Red Medicine, 8400 Wilshire Boulevard, at South Gale Drive (323-651-5500 or redmedicinela.com)
Banh Mi Sliders at Corkbar: The first appearance of Banh Mi Sliders at Downtown's beloved wine bar was, at first, fleeting (that memorable pork-and-wine pairing a few months back). But the sliders are back! And for good. Any night of the week at Corkbar, you can order a trio of banh mi, in spicy slider form, of ground pork and ginger on mini Challah buns.
Corkbar, 403 West 12th Street, at South Grand Avenue (213-746-0050 or corkbar.com)