Co Ba Doesn’t Serve Your Average Soup and Sandwich Combo
A show of hands please, from everyone who suffers from menu FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Who among us hasn’t hesitated when ordering, perhaps calling a last second audible, petulantly flip flopping between dishes. What could be worse than sulking over a bánh mì while secretly coveting your dining companion’s bowl of phở (or vice versa)? Co Ba, a welcome addition to the sparse Vietnamese restaurant population in Hells Kitchen, provides the perfect solution for this by serving a soup and sandwich combo ($12) that gives lunchers the best of both worlds.
However a combo deal isn’t the only reason to get excited about Co Ba. The man behind the restaurant, Steven Duong, brings decades of experience in both Vietnamese cuisine and fine dining. Mr. Duong has dabbled in high end Viet at his now closed NYC restaurants, Nam, Tet, and Cyclo and has served more affordable fare to Chelsea lunchers at the original location of Co Ba on 17th St for years.
There are certain cuisines that attract thrill seeking gourmands – the fire and pungency of Korean fare, the exuberant spice and earthy depth of Indian, and often the feistiness and pop of Vietnamese food. Undersung is the subtlety of said cuisines, such as the thoughtful balance of flavors in my order of bánh mì thịt. Note: With the $12 combo, diners are given 2 / 3 of any of the regular sized sandwiches ($7.50 – $8.50).
The pâté was meaty enough to be noticed but played nicely with the rest of the cast. Lightly pickled carrots and radish gave the sandwich crunch and buoyancy on the palate. Cilantro, hot peppers and mayonnaise are applied with even restraint. In short, the fillings were subtle enough to let the the wonderfully aromatic and crispy baguette shine. This bánh mì may not equal the $4 flavor bombs that you may find in Manhattan’s Chinatown – instead, this is a thinking man’s bánh mì.
The phở (again, the combo portion is roughly 2/3 the size of the normal $9 dish) delivers the familiar flavors of a decent broth – deeply savory and beefy, aromatic, and ever-so-sweet. The jury’s still out as to whether this is a better bowl of phở than neighborhood rival, Cha Pas, but I’d happily order another bowl of each to find out.
Yes… technically speaking this lunch breaks the $10 ML price limit. However the individual components are well within our constraints and both are worth ordering either piecemeal or in combination. For those that can visit Co Ba on a regular basis, I highly recommend menu exploration. For those of us with a more pressed agenda… YOLO (You Only Lunch Once).
Co Ba 53, 401 West 53rd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenue); (212) 315-0191