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.
In a city full of exceptional food, there is a bit of a shortage of truly excellent Vietnamese sandwiches. That being said, New York isn't completely devoid of decent bánh mì, and the sandwiches we tried at Sao Mai were a sure indicator that we're moving in the right direction. Had we tasted these during our search for the best bánh mì in Manhattan two years ago, they would have been at the top of the pack.
The Bánh Mì Dac Biet ($6) is the restaurant's house special. It's evenly stuffed with a combination of smooth, rich pâté and thinly sliced pork. Pickled carrots and daikon give it a good crunch and a light hint of sweetness, and cucumbers and cilantro were a bright contrast to the mayo, which is applied generously enough to add a subtle, buttery flavor without overwhelming the main ingredients or making the bread soggy.
My personal favorite, though, is the Bánh Mì Thit Nuong ($6.00). It's a simple sandwich, combining moist chunks of tender grilled pork with pickled carrots and daikon. The bread is spot on, with a crisp, crunchy crust giving way to a soft but light interior. The tenderness of the pork works perfectly with the brightness of the vegetables.
The banh mi are only sold at lunch. But dinner at Sao Mai is a great thing, too.