oh! obanhmi, damansara uptown

11:01 AM Sian Mei Yeoh 2 Comments

vietnam - i have never been but would love to go visit sometime soon. in fact, it has been added to my bucket list of places to visit. 

if things go as plan, i can check off hanoi by the end of this year *fingers crossed*

but in the meantime, i suppose i'd have to content myself with vietnamese food until then and was so thrilled to learn about o banh mi at damansara uptown. o banh mi has steadily gained a faithful following in the food community that i just HAD TO try it for myself.  & better sooner than later. i knew the best person to join me on this food adventure was {owy} since she's tried the real thing before in vietnam. plus, it worked out for me that she was craving for these sandwiches for the longest time.

despite not having to have visited vietnam before, i've had the chance to try some vietnamese food while i was in chicago at argyle, the city's vietnamese 'town' filled with local asian grocery stores in the center of many pho restaurants and banhmi cafes owned by residents of vietnamese descent.

daniel nguyen and chris bui are two best friends from hanoi opened a cafe to share their love for the food they grew up with - the banhmi. located in damansara uptown where the parking in itself is an adventure itself, you can find this petite cafe a couple of doors away from 'the ship' restaurant.

the cafe's decor was clean, simple and minimalist. the brightly lit petite space was sprinkled with colorful vietnamese art pieces to mirror its identity amongst the high top counters and high communion table in the middle of the cafe.

their menu is specialized in banhmi with a few exceptions of spring rolls and bread dipped in milk/stew. watch out for the specials menu on a separate chalk board by the cash register too! they even serve vietnamese milk coffee that i was rather excited about. despite their small menu, my friend who visited the week before i did, warned that the place was packed after 11am on a saturday morning.

what i love is the fact that they bake their baguettes fresh since what makes and breaks a sandwich is the bread as the vehicle to encase but at the same time showcase the filling. for the freshest & out of the oven bread sandwiches and your #outofoven #osofresh and #osmokinghot experience, there is a baguette reload schedule of 8am, 12:3opm, 1pm and 6pm. read on to find out if the freshly baked baguette was worthy of all of its hashtags.
drink :: vietnamese milk coffee  (hot/ice) | premium vietnamese milk coffee. deliciously rich and creamy. this coffee is authentically vietnamese. you won't be loafing around after having this stuff (rm 4)

typically i would go for hot coffee, but it just seemed right to get this particular iced. i liked the strong coffee flavor but with a slight distinct indescribable flavor. it was a smidgen too sweet that it masked the bitter undertone slightly and top that off with creaminess.

main menu :: o school | the original vietnamese baguette served with pâtés, homemade mayonnaise, ham, pickled radish & carrots, chili, cilantro, and lemon grass chicken. one sandwich fits all  (rm 8.2o)

a apt representation of what the traditional vietnamese banhmi is made of, which i was quite surprised since this wasn't something i have gotten at the banhmi store in chicago.  with the usual suspects of the pickled radish & carrots and more than just a handful of cilantro as garnish, i was interested in seeing how the lemongrass chicken, ham and pork pâtés worked together.

the professional chef defines pâté as a rich forcemeat of meat, game, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables, baked in a pastry or in a mold or dish and served hot or cold. and forcemeat is prepared by grinding lean meats together with fat and seasonings to form an emulsion. i was half expecting something akin to terrine consistency but was surprised when i was greeted by sauteed minced meat spread on the inside of the fresh baguette. oh, i will get back to the baguette in a bit.

with all the ingredients, it was intriguing that the pâté, ham and chicken was still light in flavor. the lemongrass seasoning in the roughly chopped chicken was merely a soft whisper, a complete opposite what i've had before in the past. the pickled julienned carrots and daikon presented a nice contrasting crunchy texture with a sweet and lightly tangy.  the combination of the sandwich filling was pleasant and moist that equates to a pretty good sandwich.

yeah i'll come to the baguette soon. don't worry, i didn't forget about it.

main menu :: o bbq | fresh baguette served with bbq pork, sunny side-up egg, homemade mayonnaise, pickled carrots & daikon, and of course, vietnamese chili sauce (rm 8.2o)

i was looking forward to the bbq pork, anticipating what i missed and loved about the banhmi i've had in chicago. with the same basic foundations of bread, pickled salad and cilantro, it was then the bbq pork and sunny side up egg that were supposed to take center stage. i was rather disheartened by the pork. it wasn't moist and in fact it was overcooked and dry, a stone throw's away from being meat jerky. so much so that it took over my thoughts and distracted me from the flavors of the meat itself.

the egg yolk was cooked all the way through, far from being called a sunny side up because the richness of the creamy yolk would have gone a long way to compensate for the over grilled meat but would have appreciated some seasoning on the egg. the sandwich description mentioned vietnamese chili sauce which tasted more or less like regular chili sauce. it was an uninspiring sandwich that fell flat.

one thing i noticed about the sandwiches is that the filling was stacked in a way that was hard for me to get all the ingredients into one bite so i could appreciate the nuances of each components separately and combined at the same time.

extras! :: fresh baguette | tuesday to friday (rm 2.5o)

finally, i've arrived on the bread. the fresh baguette was perfection. i had to save the best for last. the bread was soft on the inside with a semi crusty outside, the ideal canvas of texture that complements the rest. i was tempted to get some of the baguettes for my own eating pleasures, simply with just good extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese. disappointment ensued since it's a 'no-can-do' on the weekend and i was there on a sunday morning.

{owy}'s assessment was similar to mine - the sandwiches here were tasty but would we call it authentically banhmi is still up for discussion. the flavors were muted with the exception of the pickled salad of daikon and carrots & garnishes of cilantro and they needed to step out of the shadow to be what could have been a outstanding. since i love the fresh baguette to crumbs bits, perhaps my next visit is to try something off the menu that is not the cafe's namesake - the hearty stew seems like a attractive choice.

o banh mi, a good effort but there's definitely room for improvement.

o banh mi | location
33, jalan ss21/56b,
damansara utama,
474oo petaling jaya,
(the same row as 'the ship')

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.


Anonymous said...

Kudos to a well written review! I agree with you that it falls short to be authentic. Having said that, you should probably make a visit to the one in bandar puteri. I find that more authentic than obanhmi. Just my two cents!

@anonymous: I am glad you enjoyed the read. I will take a look into the place at bandar puteri for their bahnmi. Thank you for the suggestions! :)