No need to travel to Montreal when the craving hits. You can finally find a banh mi in Albany with the right kind of bread. Saigon Pearl on Madison Ave. delivers a light and crisp French baguette that shatters upon first bite. The bread has drastically changed since their opening day offering and finally highlights the most important element of a banh mi. You won't find the classic fillings of cha lua bologna or liver pate, but the bbq beef and meatball versions are equally as satisfying, bringing together savory, sweet, and fresh flavors. Plus at $5.00 a sandwich, it's a steal and a much tastier alternative to that generic five dollar foot long. Add a durian milkshake if you're brave enough and you've got yourself a pretty good Vietnamese meal.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Monday, September 1, 2014
The newly renovated space was a scene out of Restaurant Impossible, with modern furnishings and a vibrant glass water fountain upon entry. We weren't quite sure whether it was an upgrade for Kim's until we tasted the pho broth. Each Vietnamese chef has their own unique recipe and much to our dismay, the broth was not the same. Leave it to my mom to find out that it was indeed under new ownership. Seasonings and spices were weak and the soup lacked the distinctive flavors of classic pho. While there were generous cuts of eye round, brisket, and meatballs, the soup was missing that rich, beefy flavor we always look for. Granted it was only day two of a brand-new restaurant, we're chalking it up to grand opening kinks.
Even though my parents just brought down Montreal banh mi sandwiches for us, we were too curious to pass up on the $5 Saigon Pearl banh mi. As a grand opening special, sandwiches were two for $5 and we went with choices of Vietnamese meatballs and bbq pork. I suspected that the bread was not quite Bread and Honey's as it was too short for a banh mi, not crusty like the usual loaves, and the crumb too soft. It's no Montreal banh mi but the filling was spot on. Both were very flavorful and the meatball in tomato sauce (xiu mai) was a welcomed banh mi option around here. We have high hopes for bun thit nuong noodle bowls with these kinds of flavors. As for banh mi, while it's not the bread we were hoping for, it's a good enough option for Albany. At least the pork banh mi still had familiar flavors with a schmear of pate with crunchy pickled veggies. A little toasting could go a long way if they're sticking to this bread but perhaps the perfect bread is still in the works.
Whether it was a complimentary grand opening treat or not, I liked the basket of fried shrimp chips (banh phong tom) a la chips and salsa at Mexican joints that came before our entrees. We also got complimentary fried egg rolls and these were on par in flavor to my mom's and were quite tasty. Although we're sad to see Kim's go, it's nice to see another Vietnamese option in the Capital Region. I think Albany is ready for real Vietnamese flavors without muting authentic flavors. Here's to hoping the restaurant makes some adjustments.
+ Returning Bites: Banh Mi at Saigon Pearl
+ Returning BItes: Hu Tieu Kho Noodles