Mills Avenue sub counter markets Vietnamese banh mi to the masses
Published: December 1, 2011
1227 N. Mills Ave.
There’s been no shortage of press devoted to the iconic Vietnamese sandwich known as banh mi – a multi-page feature run by this very publication a year ago is a testament to its potential for being the next “It Food,” and Yum-Mì on Mills Avenue appears to be taking a stab at marketing banh mi to the masses. The eatery, housed in the old Ba Le Bakery space, has been given a bright, fresh and modern makeover, from marquee to music to mise-en-scène – no surprise considering the 20-something owners are recent UCF grads. They also happen to be the offspring of the folks who run Pho 88 down the street – so, naturally, we figured they knew a good banh mi from a bad banh mi and … cue dramatic pause … we were right.
OK, the original ($3.75) – didn’t exactly wow us. The warm baguette, baked fresh daily in-house, had the requisite crackly crust and soft center; the do chua (carrots and daikon) was lightly pickled; the cilantro fresh; and we liked that they used cucumber spears instead of slices, but the flavors just seemed a bit flat. The cold cuts were a mélange of barbecue pork, cured ham and headcheese, but the jalapeño slices (and only two of them, at that) were served on the side instead of in the sandwich. Maybe a bit more meat or some liver paté would’ve done the trick. After polishing off that sandwich, we were ready to move on to the “Miss Piggy” ($4.50), one of their specialty banh mi. Kermit himself would find it difficult to resist the charms of the wonderfully caramelized pork belly and the simultaneously soft, crisp and snappy textures. At $5.95, the “shimmy shaker” is one of the pricier sandwiches on the menu, but the grilled soy sauce-marinated cubes of beef were worth the price – not a morsel too chewy or stringy. Again, I would’ve preferred the jalapeño slices in the sandwich; perhaps leaving them off is a ploy to get newbies onto the banh mi bandwagon? The “chicken in the hay” ($4.50) was also recommended, but while the flavors of the lemongrass-infused chicken resonated with our palates, the sandwich lost points for the meat’s desiccated texture. Draining a cup of refreshing, slushy mango-lychee “freezer” ($3.95) helped.
From the “Yummitizers” section, we ordered the shrimp-and-pork spring roll ($3.25) as well as the marinated grilled beef spring roll ($3.95). Both were fashioned from cool translucent rice paper; both were stuffed with vermicelli, carrots and cilantro; and both would’ve been lackluster had it not been for repeated dips into the properly hoisin-laden peanut sauce.
There are a few vegan/vegetarian sandwich options from which to choose, as well as plenty of desserts. Pastries and boba tea are lures, but we opted for one of their addictive chè ($1.50), specifically the cup of rice, taro root, sugar, salt and vanilla topped with coconut milk. The concoction, once it’s stirred thoroughly, proffers revolutionary sweetness. If you’re in need of a quick fix of coffee, the folks here know how to pull a proper shot of espresso ($1.65), though if you have the time, Vietnamese coffee ($2.95) is offered as well.
Yum-Mì has a lot going for it – location, comfortable space, affable owners and, most notably, the fresh-baked bread. A little finessing with ingredients and preparation and this sub counter is sure to get a hero’s welcome.
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