I’m not quite sure which I like better—tasty craft and imported beers or delicious bánh mì. All I know is that two days after reading Julia Moskin’s Times article on bars with noteworthy food, I was at the Blind Tiger Ale House for a Vietnamese sandwich and some suds. Though a card-carrying beer geek, I had never been to the new location of the acclaimed beer bar. The combination of delicious brews and savory bánh mì was enough to make me finally take the plunge.
Despite my long-held belief that only Vietnamese delis make good bánh mì, I was game to try Blind Tiger’s version.
At 5 p.m. before Labor Day weekend, the place was so crowded that ordering a beer—much less finding a perch at the bar—was nearly impossible. I considered giving up and trying Bánh Mì Số 1 in Chinatown instead, but I waited it out and persevered.
After reading the description on the chalkboard—"sweet and tangy braised pork with mango-radish slaw"—I wasn’t sure what to expect. When it came out, it didn't resemble any other bánh mì I had seen before. To say Blind Tiger takes liberties with this French-inspired Vietnamese snack would be an understatement.
For one thing, there’s no baguette. Instead it's made with a round artisanal-type roll. To be fair, the menu does let you know about the braised pork, but I much prefer roast char siu pork, pork liver pâté and headcheese on my bánh mì. Same thing goes for mango radish slaw. Bánh mì should be dressed with a mixture of pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, cucumbers, and good amounts of fresh chilies and rooster sauce. Call me an unduly harsh bánh mì purist, but I know one when I see one. And, I also know delicious when I taste it.
Bottom line: Blind Tiger’s bánh mì fails as a Vietnamese sandwich, but succeeds as a braised pork sandwich. The chunks of pork have been cooked to a spoon tender consistency and the bread does a bang-up job of soaking up the gingery juices. Blind Tiger's bánh mì is an upscale pub grub treat that, at $5.50, won’t put a dent in your beer budget. For the record, I had a crisp Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and a Sierra Nevada Brown Ale that, for all the world, tasted like a Newcastle.