11 December, 2015
Mai Banh MiComments : 1 Posted in : Dining in Berkeley - CA, Dining in Oakland - CA, Restaurants on by : becca
I’ve been eyeing this little corner spot since it opened in the home of a former bakery about 2 months ago. I love banh mi, so I was excited to have somewhere serving it that I could easily walk to from home. Inside are just a counter, kitchen, two tables, and a painting, so it’s mostly a to-go joint. Though stay if you like dance music!
In addition to banh mi, they serve spring rolls, rice and vermicelli platters, and shrimp and papaya salads. Those with sweet tooths can find macarons for sale with some flavors, such as s pandan-coconut, befitting a Vietnamese restaurant. For beverages, they have many canned options, Vietnamese coffee, Thai tea; coconut, aloe vera, and orange juices; and lemonade. You can get the aloe vera and coconut with basil seeds and rainbow jelly, if you want, but they were out when I was in—not atypical for a new restaurant, really. I had the canned coconut juice for $2 instead, and I was quite content.
I was less content with my beef banh mi. For $5.15, the size is right, as it comes on a hefty French roll that acts as it should, holding the ingredients well. Bits of crust flake off with every bite.
I liked the sweet, pickled radish slices cut somewhere between a julienne and a grate. The problem is that those radishes, combined with carrots, formed the bulk of the banh mi. There were maybe two slices of horizontal-cut jalapeno and cucumber, a few sprigs of cilantro, a thin veneer of mayo, and five to six thin rounds of beef. Except for the rare bite from the jalapeno, it all tasted like the radish pickle. That’s not a bad taste, but it’s not the flavor explosion I expect from a banh mi. All the basic ingredients are there, but they haven’t gelled yet to make a memorable sandwich. Just a passable one.
Mai Banh Mi does have the traditional headcheese and pork cake meat options in addition to ham, tofu, and grilled chicken, pork, and beef, which is a plus. Despite wishing the sandwich had way more jalapeno and meat, I’ll likely go back if I’m working at home and a banh mi craving hits. I’ll just remember to add Sri Racha and ask for extra meat.
Mai Banh Mi
6601 Telegraph Avenue
Reviewed 4 November 2015.