Baoguette Wins Lunch’er Organized “Banh-Mi-Palooza”
Last week Lunch’er Christene floated the idea of a banh mi tasting in the connections section of the forums. Yesterday 7 Midtown Lunchers gathered in Grand Central to turn her dream into a reality. Here is Christene’s report…
With open minds and empty stomach, 7 Midtown lunchers gathered to rate 7 different banh mi-style sandwiches in a head-to-head competition. To ensure nuance and balance in the competition, representative banh mi’s were to include Chinatown (Paris Sandwich, Banh Mi Saigon), East Village (Nicky’s), Gramercy (Baoguette) and, of course, Midtown (Ma Peche, Yushi, and Boi To Go). We rated the sandwiches with 5 points assigned to each of 6 categories: bread, pork, vegetables, overall taste, authenticity and value. To ensure purveyors and/or price-point did not prejudice the taste ratings, we labeled sandwiches A-G and provided price on the flip side of post-its, so that tasters could self-reveal price after eating the sample and thus rate value independently.
The results are after the jump…
Baoguette won hands down with 5 #1 rankings overall and the highest overall points. Banh Mi Saigon and Boi To Go each had one #1 ranking, and Banh Mi Saigon had the second highest overall points. The Ma Peche banh mi maison chicken banh mi rated lowest in all categories, particularly far below others in overall taste, authenticity and value. (Although in fairness, how can chicken ever beat pork?)
In the end Nicky’s could not be included because they are closed for renovation – neither posting the information on their website nor answering the phone when present but not serving provided extra disappointment. Thus, the 7th sandwich was the Ma Peche chicken banh mi, which we rated alongside the others, though calling it banh may be questionable.
OVERALL GROUP COMMENTS
Baoguette was the group favorite with a flavorful variety of pork, nice quality bread, and good balance of flavors and textures. Baoguette earned the highest ranking in all categories, including overall taste. Expectedly, only Chinatown banh mi’s rated higher in value. Baoguette at $5 plus tax (compared to $3.75 lowest price, and $10 plus tax highest price), provided the best value banh mi outside of Chinatown.
Ma Peche’s banh mi maison chicken banh mi rated the lowest. The bread is a nice quality French baguette, but the sandwich struck us as plain, which is different from simple and certainly not descriptive of a well-made banh mi, as well as unappealing. Though asterisking the entrant due to not being pork, we unilaterally liked the flavor of the Ma Peche chicken banh mi, which rated second in the *pork* category, second only to Baoguette. Plus, we gorged ourselves on the gorgeous Ma Peche deserts, so to some that might be reason enough to eat their chicken sandwich. UPDATE: The letters got mixed up. The banh mi maison was universally liked from a flavor standpoint, and rated 2nd only to Baoguette in porkiness (makes sense). But it ended up in 5 place, probably because of the price.
Yushi rated the overall second lowest. Of their 3 pork products, they include “barbequed” pork slathered in hoisin sauce. Though none of us dislike hoisin sauce itself, it masks all the other flavors and makes the sandwich too saucy and mushy. Add to that the soft, untoasted bread, and for the expectation of banh mi sandwich, the experience is not pleasant.
Banh Mi Saigon and Paris Sandwich took the second and third overall ratings and first and second value ratings, in that order, with Banh Mi Saigon edging out Paris Sandwich by a very slim margin. As reviewed before, Paris Sandwich wins on bread and Banh Mi Saigon wins on filling (pork and vegetables), though some may find the Banh Mi Saigon fillings too sweet.
Boi To Go ranked #4 overall, and as Yelp and other reviewers suggest, it is the most controversial. Among the Midtownlunch.com crowd, it had the highest variation in points. The flavor of the pork is very distinctive with a strong flavor (perhaps anise?) – which some intensely like and some intensely dislike. Quite simply, if you don’t mind experimenting with $8, you’d have to try it yourself to decide.
Overall points ranking:
1 – Baoguette (5), Multiple Locations (link)
2 – Saigon Banh Mi (1), 138 Mott St (btw Grand St & Hester St), 212-941-1541
3 – Paris Sandwich, 213 Grand St.
4 – Boi To Go (1), Two Locations (link)
5 – Ma Peche Chicken Pork (link)
6 – Yushi, 245 Park Avenue (on 47th btw. Lex+Park), 212-687-1900
7 – Ma Peche Pork Chicken (link)
Number of #1 Rankings in (parenthesis)
For more photos, and a complete report from one judges point of view check out Feisty Foodie.