Boi Sandwich’s New Curry Chicken Meatball Banh Mi
It only took seven weeks, but the Midtown Lunch Sandwich Challenge finally has a banh mi entry courtesy of Boi Sandwich, the take out place on 3rd Ave. btw. 44+45th owned by upscale Vietnamese restaurant Boi. Midtown Lunch’er “Clues” was on this one early, and filed this report in the comments:
I just had their special “Curried Chicken Meatball” sandwich. It was awesome in two respects: size and taste. First, this thing is big. It’s probably almost 2x the size of a Sophie’s sandwich. The “baguette” is more like a 7″ x 5″ slice of a large loaf. The bread is, however, one of the strongest elements of the sandwich – crisp on the outside and very moist and airy on the inside. The French influence in Vietnam definitely pays off here. The combination of flavors is very good – curried chicken meatballs, cilantro, some sweet pickled veggies… all comes together well. None of the flavors are overwelming (the curry is very mild). I highly recommend it. The $7.50 price is high but you do get a lot of food and they are giving away promotion cards where you get your tenth meal for free – so ten sandwiches works out to $6.75 each plus tax.
Well, after reading that endorsement, how could I wait any longer to try this thing for myself?
So, I feel like I need to address a few issues about this sandwich before I start… because I know it’s going to come up in the comments.
1. While Boi Sandwich is Vietnamese, and they do sell “Banh Mi” (the Vietnamese/French sandwiches that have become incredibly popular over the past few years), their sandwiches are not representative of what most consider to be a good version of banh mi. In other words, if you are going to Boi Sandwich (or Boi to Go, its sister restaurant on 2nd Ave.) expecting a banh mi like what you would get at Saigon in Chinatown, or Ba Xuyen in Sunset Park you are going to be extremely disappointed. Their meats are not as good as any of those places, and their bread is completely wrong. It’s french bread, but at Boi they cut it from a much thicker, and larger loaf- so what you end up with is a giant square sandwich that is way too bread heavy. You probably couldn’t put enough filling in this bread to balance the filling to bread ratio properly. Oh, and they cost $7.50, which while super expensive for banh mi- is pretty standard for Midtown.
2. While I have enjoyed countless banh mi sandwiches from a number of places around the city, I have never tried a meatball banh mi (pork or chicken)- which I know are pretty popular. So I have *no idea* what a regular Vietnamese meatball banh mi tastes like, or what kind of meatballs are usually in those sandwiches.
I can only say if this curry chicken meatball sandwich tasted good… and it does taste good. Which I guess is all we should care about right? Granted there were things to complain about. For example you have to eat through a lot of bread before you get to the filling… but once you do, the meatballs do a good job of balancing with the French bread. They have really good flavor too, reminiscent of sate lilit- these ground meat skewers I had in Bali. Heavy on the cumin, corriander, coconut milk and palm sugar (or brown sugar.) I’m not normally good at picking out flavors, and I could be wrong about these… I just know that it tasted really similar, and those are the ingredients that go into sate lilit, so I’m guessing it’s the same stuff that went into these.
The meatballs also didn’t really resemble meat, but they tasted so good it didn’t really matter. And at least they weren’t dry! The rest of the toppings were fine, although once again not nearly as good as you get at a top notch banh mi shop. Even so the lettuce, cilantro, and shredded+pickled daikon and carrots added a nice coolness to the sandwich. I asked for it spicy, but couldn’t detect any spiciness. They do have hot sauce in small containers in the front… if you want your sandwich spicy, I’d recommend asking for some on the side when you pay.
So, if you are looking for a great banh mi- I don’t know if Boi Sandwich is the place for you. But if you’d be happy with a good sandwich, stuffed with something that resembles a chicken meatball, and tastes like Asian curry… you will not be disappointed by this entry! ($7.50 for the sandwich, $8.75 for a sandwich and drink.)
Boi Sandwich, 708 3rd Ave (btw. 44+45th St), 212-681-6541