Saturday, November 8, 2014

Banh Mi Crawl- Kim Saigon Sandwiches/Golden Garden Vietnamese

This is a much belated food crawl post, but putting this together has been a delicious stroll down memory lane. In March 2014, four of us crawled the city tasting Banh Mi sandwiches. I first fell in love with Banh Mi’s when I lived near Fraser and Kingsway.

For those who don’t know, banh mi (often called Vietnamese subs), are the colonial love-child of French cuisine and the Vietnamese palate. During their rule over what was then called Indochina, the French brought their baguette, mayonnaise, pâté and charcuterie to Vietnam where these ingredients evolved and adapted to take on more Asian flavours.

The ideal banh mi is a feat: a bun with a impossibly crackling crust and soft airy crumb encases a filling comprised of a tangy shredded daikon pickle, charcuterie, mayo, and pate all co-existing in a fine balance of tart and savoury.

This post sums up our first stop on this food crawl.

Stop #1
Kim Saigon Sandwiches/ Golden Garden Vietnamese
$5 Chicken Bahn Mi

This was the Leggy Redhead’s pick, a find from one of her favourite app’s, Chef’s Feed. The interior of the restaurant was quite upscale compared to most Vietnamese restaurant’s I’ve experience and the actually had a minimum spend if we wanted to eat in. To achieve that minimum spend, the Leggy redhead added a side, a Green papaya salad with beef jerkey ($8) and two beers. I really enjoyed the salad, it was slightly sweet, salty, with some great crispy and crunchy textural elements.
On to the main focus of our eating adventure….the Banh Mi. Overall, I found the sandwich tasty but not mind-blowing delicious. I found it a bit lacking in flavour- from the meat to the pickled veg, the flavours were all quite mellow. I missed the sour kick that usually comes from the pickled veg and wanted a bit more jalapeno. I also found the ratio a bit off. Bread was nice and crunchy on the outside, fluffy-with some density on the inside.

Hungover Crawler
It was a rainy Saturday in March and I had been waiting patiently to lose my virginity (twice) that day. This was my first food crawl with the Lifebites crew and it was to be my first Banh Mi ever. How could I have lived in Vancouver so long and never tried one? I also have to admit I had a big evening out the night before and was still feeling the effects of a few bottles of wine that may have been imbibed. But nothing could slow me down and I jumped eagerly into our fearless leader's Fit (luckily I wasn't driving) ready to enjoy four stops guaranteed to cure my hangover.

Stop number one was Kim Saigon in Chinatown. Now, it's actually within the Golden Garden Vietnamese restaurant. Banh mi wasn't on the menu but we asked and our server said we could order them. She seemed rather confused and not terribly impressed that we wanted to order one sandwich to share between four people. We were told that it's a $5 minimum charge per person (which would never be a problem under normal circumstances and isn't unreasonable, but we were the only people in there). So we also ordered the beef jerky green papaya salad. And just to make her like us a little more I also ordered a beer. (Or maybe that was in hopes of warding off my approaching headache from the previous night's festivities.)
We had the chicken banh mi. The bun was nice and warm and had a nice texture to it. It wasn't the most flavourful sandwich, but I still liked it (remember, this was my first ever). I was more impressed with the papaya salad. It was light and refreshing and the beef jerky on top was an interesting twist, giving the green papaya a little salt and spice. It also had some very tasty Thai basil on top. Although I wasn't blown away by the banh mi I am interested in going back to the Golden Garden to try other menu items.

Leggy Redhead
This one was my pick from reviews I'd read on Chef's Feed.  Funny enough, banh mi's are not on the menu, but can be ordered anytime (with lots of choices when you ask the server).  We had the chicken banh mi (+ we decided to try the beef jerky papaya salad).  Banh mi - warm crusty bread and nice flavour to the fillings, but can't say I'm waiting to go back.  It wasn't bad...but it also wasn't great in comparison to our other stops.  The papaya salad, however, I loved.  Super light, flavourful and lots of thai basil flavours.  

The Bad Jew
Incredibly clean upon walking in, abrupt departure from the Main and Hastings exterior.  Is this really Vancouver Chinatown?  The interior finishing gave it a bit of an Earls look and feel – sadly without any boobs on display.  I somehow think this added to Hungover Crawler’s general disorientation stemming from her still being drunk from the night before.
The server announced that there was a $5 per person minimum charge before we ordered.  We all looked at each other thinking – “this is going to be a problem.  We plan to eat one sandwich between the four of us.”  Not to worry, Hungover Crawler had it all figured out.  We’ll just order 2 bottles of Tsing Tao in addition to the beef jerky and green papaya salad to start.  Strong thinking at 11:15 am. 

The salad was odd and unexpected – cilantro, shredded beef jerky, thai basil, green papaya covered with a mildly spicy soy sauce dressing.  Not bad given the crazy ingredients – but not interesting enough to seek out as a foodie delight. 

The Bahn Mi arrived looking traditional.  11 “ long (yes I measured – I guess it’s habit).  Cucumbers, carrots, jalepano, shredded chicken.  The bread crust was light and not too crunchy which is important in my books.  Overall taste was balanced with a subtle salty flavour.  Excellent french baguette.  Not unique enough to venture down to this part of town on a regular basis.

Golden Garden Vietnamese Cuisine / Kim Saigon Sandwich on