This review of a New York restaurant is a break from The Picky Glutton’s usual London-based coverage.
There are no such problems in New York though where bánh mì establishments of all shapes and sizes can be found on almost every street corner. There are a couple of branches of Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches dotted throughout the Big Apple, so I dropped into the downtown Brooklyn branch one weekday lunchtime. It’s not really a restaurant, more a cafe, but I’m such a big fan of bánh mì that I’m reviewing it here anyway.
Banh mi sandwiches use French-style baguettes, a legacy of French colonisation, but the bread tends to be crispier and chewier than the Gallic originals due to the use of rice flour which was the case at Nicky’s. Bánh mì
usually come filled with fresh vegetables and some combination of Vietnamese ham or pate as well as a dressing of some sort. Modern variants may have other fillings too such as tofu. Nicky’s menu is rather brief with only a handful of choices – I opted for the Classic, which consists of ham and pate. The portion was surprisingly small, especially for an establishment in America, but as I only wanted a light lunch, this didn’t bother me too much
What could possibly go wrong?
The good news is that the Classic came filled with plenty of fresh, crunchy carrots and cucumber as well as a liberal helping of fresh coriander. The bad news is that there was precious little of the pate and ham and what little there was was rather bland – the ham was especially lacking the fatty meatiness that I would expect. The optional spicy sauce wasn’t very spicy – I’ve had ketchups that are more piquant. I could’ve used the bottles of sriacha sauce present on every table, but that really isn’t the point.
I’m also a big fan of Vietnamese coffees. The best I’ve had in Paris use a strong dark roast with lots of condensed milk. Although the version at Nicky’s certainly had plenty of condensed milk, the coffee was surprisingly weak – an annoyingly common problem in many iced coffees.
The Classic bánh mì at Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches was rather poor overall, which is both surprising and disappointing. I had been planned to go back and try out their pho, or beef noodle soup, but I could never quite bring myself to do it when their signature dish was so underwhelming. I don’t like damning an establishment based on just one dish alone, but when it’s the eatery’s signature dish as it is in this case, I feel it’s deserved. Two stars.
Name: Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches (Atlantic Avenue branch)
Address: 311 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, NY 11201-5851
Phone: 718 855 8838
Web: http://www.nickyssandwiches.com/ (off-line at the time of writing)
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday midday-21.00, Sunday midday-19.00
Reservations: not taken.
Total cost for one person including soft drink: $8 (£5 approx. at time of writing)