In this great city of ours, one could eat a different sandwich every day of the year—so that's what we'll do. Here's A Sandwich a Day, our daily look at sandwiches around New York. Got a sandwich we should check out? Let us know. —The Mgmt.
There was a time back when your only options for Asian food in the Morningside Heights vicinity were a semi-decent Korean barbecue joint, pre-fab Japanese-ish sushi, or takeout Chinese joints that specialized in fried chicken.
Things have improved massively since then. Today there's not just one, but two Vietnamese sandwich shops within walking distance of one another in the vicinity. Quick & Quality Vietnamese Sandwich, a sandwich shop that offers a few noodle dishes and appetizers on top of their dozen-odd sandwiches, opened back in January, while Saiguette, which features a full Vietnamese menu, opened just a few months back in August.
I decided to hop on my bike and check them out in a head-to-head sandwich-off.
The fillings at Quick & Quality are comparable to the better of the banh mi shops downtown, with fresh-tasting cold cuts and pork that had the texture and flavor or real pork, not random mystery meat. That said, the proportions of the sandwich are a little off, with too much bread and not enough fillings. A few more stems of cilantro, a slightly crisper cucumber, perhaps a few extra slices of cold cut or a wider smear of pâté would have gone a long way towards bringing this one into the upper echelons of NYC banh mi-dom.
As it stands, It is still a damn fine sandwich shop.
Saiguette, which is a few blocks over on 106th and Columbus, is a step up pricewise from most banh mi in the city at a full $8 per sandwich, but it's also one of the most flavorful around.
Pork shoulder marinated in a sweet and savory glaze come grilled and tender, with deep char and delightfully crispy bits of caramelized sugar and browned fat clinging to its surface. None of the flaccid gray meat or stewed chunks you'll find at many other banh mi shops, this is meat grilled by somebody who clearly knows what they were doing. I mean, just look at that pork above. Gorgeous.
On top of that, the cilantro was plentiful and fresh, the cucumbers crisp, and the pickled carrots and daikon tangy. My single complaint would be a decided lack of heat, even when I specified for it to be delivered spicy.
If these sandwiches had been included in our Best Banh Mi in Manhattan Taste Test, they would have ranked pretty highly, with the Saiguette offering having one of the tastiest meat-based fillings I've had in Manhattan. For my money, the extra-tasty pork is worth the $2 upgrade cost if you are coming from Quick and Quality.
Quick & Quality Sandwich
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.