Bai Cha’s Bánh Mì Earns Reprieve

Bai ChaIn hindsight, it was unfair of us to post a mostly unfavorable write-up of Bai Cha, which opened on 9th Ave last August. We don’t call ourselves professional restaurant critics, but any professional food writer worth their salt will wait at least a month before visiting a restaurant with the intent to critique. So when I saw that Bai Cha’s bánh mì fell around the middle of the pack in Serious Eats’ recent assessment – earning a place right behind Bánh Mì Saigon, but besting Baoguette and Nicky’s among others – I knew it was time a for another visit.

bai cha banh mi

My classic bánh mì ($5.95) was much improved this time around, and the quality of the pork pate and terrine had been upgraded. Additionally, they’d remembered to add cilantro, and a smattering of raw jalapenos brought a good amount of heat. I picked up a lot of black pepper, which may not appear in traditional bánh mì flavors, and mayonnaise played heavily into the overall flavor profile again. Also, it was hefty enough for a complete meal, though hungrier lunchers may want to add on a satay or two for extra filler.

However, the baguette was on the verge of being stale, and I missed the crackly crunch that a baguette made with rice flour would have had. It also needed a good deal more acid, as the cured carrots and cucumbers had been introduced to sugar, but little to no vinegar.

While I disagree with Kenji’s opinion – I still think Baoguette’s bánh mì is better than Bai Cha’s – they seemed to have settled down from their opening week miscues and improved the quality of their food.

Bai Cha, 710 9th Ave (between 48th & 49th). 212-315-9667

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