Num Pang Midtown Opens Tomorrow (With Two New Sandwiches!)
Long before I was Flatiron Lunching, I was making special trips to Union Square to get to Num Pang’s original 12th Street location. Their Cambodian sandwiches aren’t just a twist on the Banh Mi we’ve all come to love. Instead they use the similar flavors as a jumping off point to play with ingredients from pork belly to mackerel in fun and interesting ways. When I found out that a new branch was opening on 41st btw. Lex+3rd (not 10 blocks from my office) I was psyched. The new shop opens tomorrow, but they did a preview on Tuesday as a test run of their ordering system, and we couldn’t help but go check it out.
The new space is a bit more spacious than the tight quarters down on 12th Street. There’s much more room to wait for your order inside and the counter running along the wall doesn’t require contorting through a spiral staircase to get to. Right over the counter is a graffiti piece they commissioned to bring a little downtown decor to the otherwise staid neighborhood.
The counter is standing room only, there are no stools and it only fits about five or six people at any given time. They expect most customers will take their orders to go and eat in the outdoor space around the corner.
Just like downtown, the orders are taken through a window in front of the store. There are menus posted along the waiting area, so the unfamiliar can take a moment to figure out what they want.
The menu is practicaly the same as the location on 12th Street. The sandwiches are split between the classic menu, including pulled pork, catfish, veal meatballs, shrimp, steak or roasted cauliflower and the seasonal menu with items like pork belly, mackerel, and two new sandwiches that are only available at the new location.
The first among them was the Khmer sausage sandwich. The sausage is made by Brooklyn Bangers, an off-shoot of The Vanderbilt in Prospect Heights. I’ve been a big fan of their stuff since they premiered at the Brooklyn Flea this spring and was pretty excited about this one. I was hoping for something like the delicious, salty, sweet sausages I got from a street cart in Siem Reap last year. Turns out this wasn’t the same thing, but it was still pretty good. My only critique is that the meat is softer and can get a little lost in all the toppings.
Each of the sandwiches is served on a thick, chewy, toasted baguette and packed with long sliced cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro and a smear of chili mayo. Given all that to compete with, the flavoring in the sausage that could probably stand out a little more.
The roasted chicken ‘chimi’ sandwich, on the other hand, didn’t have that problem at all. A chicken thigh marinated overnight in a Thai basil chimmichurri sauce, then roasted until it’s plump and juicy, it had plenty of flavor to spare. I liked it so much, I forgot to grab the sriracha until I was half way through it.
The only side dish I tried was this awesome grilled corn, topped with more chili mayo and a generous heaping of shredded coconut. The mayo made it a little difficult to handle without creating a mess, but the combination of the spice, the char, the sweetness and the coconut comes together so well that it didn’t matter.
Behind the counter in the kitchen, I spotted these for roasted cauliflower sandwiches, but given all the other deliciousness to explore on the menu, it’ll be a little while until I get to the vegetarian options.
Num Pang also has a selection of juices available, including a blood orange lemonade I had. It was a bit too tart for me, but they keep a bottle of simple syrup around for anyone who wants to balance out the sweet with the sour.
My biggest problem with Num Pang in the past was that getting down to 12th Street for lunch was so infrequent for me that I’d always get the same thing (the pork belly sandwich, naturally). Now that it’s so close, I’m looking forward to exploring the menu further. The shrimp and catfish and skirt steak are all high up on my list. I may very well be back there tomorrow just to get started as soon as I can.
Num Pang, 140 East 41st Street (between Third and Lexington Aves) 212.867.8889