|Banh mi with five spice pork belly - $5.99|
It is one of those food that are easily translated to the western palate. This is proven by the growing proliferation of banh mi only vendors. One of the more famous would be the Nom Nom food truck founded by two UCLA graduates. They were featured and became the runner-up in the TV competition The Great Food Truck Race. This in turn feeds the banh mi frenzy even more.
The Banh Mi Boys in Toronto are utilising this momentum by offering banh mi (and other dishes) with viet-sino-korean-japanese flavours in the heart of Chinatown. And sell they did. We came to the shop just before lunch when it was all quiet with only two other customers other than us. But when that clock struck noon, a school of diners suddenly appeared. The shop was packed to the brim without any room to breathe.
It didn’t help that the flow of the restaurant is somewhat counter-intuitive -- customer orders were taken at the front near the entrance, with the food being served at the back of the shop, and the dining tables are next to the entrance. It doesn’t take too many customers for the queue to spill out the door. After giving their order, customers would have to battle the swarm to try find a table and leave some sort of personal belonging to mark their spot so that it won't be snatched up by some eejit. They'd have to battle the crowd again when the order is ready to be picked up at the narrowing back of the restaurant, and battle the same crowd trying to go back to their table. It was pretty chaotic. No one seemed to mind though.
Service aside, the pork belly in my banh mi was unctuous and delicious. The vegies and pickle gave the sandwich the crunchy freshness it needed. Though the kimchi fries were a major disappointment. They were burnt. Either because they have been reheated by frying twice, or they spent too much time in the deep fryer, or the temperature of the frying oil was too high. It was so burnt tasting that it overpowered the kimchi!