There has been recent buzz about this new Banh Mi place in Mills 50. So I decided to give it whirl. My initial take was to get a Banh Mi to go, isn’t that the deal at Saigon Subs or Boston Bakery? Driving up Mills Av. is a constant jostling for space. There is always that ever asking question, where to park? On a less busy day there is parking along Mills Av. or here is a secret, there is a parking lot in the back of the restaurant! Sweet.
Back to the whole take out thing. I rather enjoy scarving down one or two Banh Mis whether on the go or sitting down. But my go to spots, namely Saigon Subs or Boston Bakery, does not have the best accommodations, so I figured yum-mi was going to be the same. Shame on me to prejudge. The store front, as in this revival of Mills 50, is a clean modern remake. Luckily for me there was a parking spot available along Mills Ave. Watch out for speeding motorists. Entry into this little space was very warm and inviting. It helps that the entire store front is street to ceiling glass, wow it is bright in there. But this openness transferred to the ordering counter. Yes, it is a quick counter service place, but hold on. There are cool booths, and chairs, and tables, and banquettes. Really, loungy! Pretty cool. Not your little old man or old lady Banh Mi joint. This is young, fresh ,vibrant, definitely hip and cool. The muted light grey color scheme transferred from the pavement to the interior with accent color pops of orange and red really opens this space. Oh I am sitting down.
Presented overhead is the enormous menu. So this is not just Banh Mi? Not at all, there is a sandwich for everyone. There are the traditional yum-mi sandwiches (banh mi), specialty sandwiches, yummitizers, noodle salad bowls, boba tea, freezers, and a coffee bar. Interesting enough there seems to be an underlying tone of east meets west sandwiches. Chicken in lemongrass and five spice powder, beef cubes in Asian spices, Philly cheese steak, tofu, and pork belly balance out the original liver pate and daikons. How clever. Just by looking at the menu, it would suggest that a person of Vietnamese descent wanted to welcome their American red blooded friends into the realm of cross culturalism. If that was the owner’s intent then I would say they have definitely succeeded.
With all these new choices, I had to deviate from the original plan for Banh Mi and go with the happy smiling attendant’s suggestion of the VP Sandwich Vietnamese-style Philly steak and cheese with 2 fried eggs on top. Since I was staying I might as well get a freezer, the attendant suggested Mango Lychee. Yes ma’am I’ll take that too. As I was waiting around for my food, I stepped in front of the drink section. It looked like a hybrid between a full liquor bar and a high intensity wok station. Well, with fruits. A little of this, a little of that, a pinch of that, a toss of this, all into a blender and then a cup, wa la. This attendant also suggested her favorite sandwich as Chicken in the Hay Lemongrass spiced. Oh I got to come back for that.
I could have waited or take a seat with a little number stand and someone would bring the food over. I sat by the window along Mills Av. Never realized how cool it was to watch cars whizzing by. The basket of heaven arrived with these two yellow eyes staring at me. The egg yolks! As I studied the sandwich, it dawned on me this could be epic. So I took the first bite to savor all the flavors. The steak was perfectly seasoned and grilled to perfection. Carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, and cilantro were all fresh and vibrant. But the egg was still there. So I flipped the eggs with sunny side down and gave it a little love squeeze. All the runny yolk oozed into the meat and vegetables, now that was epic! This little trick literally turned the sandwich on its head. Talk about kicking things up a notch. Finger licking great. Could not put the sandwich down until the last bite. The freezer was okay on flavor, slightly more icy than mango and lychee, but still very good.
This restaurant surprised me that they have taken a simple sandwich concept and elevated it across cultural lines to break down barriers. It is even more exciting that the decor has moved away from the traditional “tropical” Vietnamese feel and embraced modernism. The higher point is the inclusion of Americanized flavors. All so often ethnic eateries have not considered that the dining public may want to try their cuisine. Thank you yum-mi for allowing us to into your culture.