[Added 24 February 2015: See also my post B is for Bánh Mì, where I go around eating it at various places.]
Ever since we've been to Vietnam, we've been bemoaning the lack of herbs in the offerings here. Where we were spoiled with side plates piled high with greenery overseas, we are lucky if we even get a single sprig of Thai basil in Auckland, let alone sawtooth coriander, rice paddy herb, or any of the other distinctive Vietnamese herbs you can find at the market. We'd even be happy with just coriander and mint, if only they were served in sufficient quantities, but no. The one exception I have come across is Cafe Hanoi (there's also a little place in Wellington, but that's so far away), where you can purchase a small herb tray for a price.
|Herbs in Vietnam Exhibit 1 - with phở/noodle soup.|
|Herbs in Vietnam Exhibit 2 - with bánh xèo.|
|Herbs in Vietnam Exhibit 3 - with freshly steamed rice rolls.|
|Why don't restaurants serve herbs like these with their Vietnamese meals?|
There was however one item we have had, which we actually enjoyed more in Auckland than we did in Vietnam*: the bánh mì Vietnamese sandwiches from a restaurant on Dominion Road which no longer exists, called Banh Mi Bale.
* Actually, there was a bánh mì which we really liked in Vietnam. Unfortunately, it also made us really sick.
|Pictures of the old shop from Student Foodie: Auckland.|
|Picture of Vietnamese sandwich from Chinese Town listing.|
I can see why the owners of Banh Mi Bale wanted to shift—the Lorne Street location they moved to in 2009 is much more central—but I don't know why they changed their menu. In 2011, they rebranded their restaurant to Saigon BBQ. Chinese roast meats were in; bánh mì were out. Cue sadness and despair. Later that year, they brought back the sandwiches in a new shop called Pho Saigon in the Viaduct, but that too is now gone (though when I rang up to ask about it, they said they had hopes of running it again).
|Selection of Vietnamese sandwiches from the original Pho Saigon in the Viaduct.|
Bánh Mì Càphê
When I came across a Waikato Times article about a new eatery in Hamilton called Bahn Mi Caphe, where the baguettes arrive each day from a bakery owned by the parents of the chef's Vietnamese wife, we just had to give it a go.
I'm not sure we would drive out all that way very often, but we did have a good bánh mì there. Maybe not quite as good as the ones from the depths of our memories, but certainly a cut above some of the other sandwiches we have tried at various places. The baguette had a thin crust on the outside, with a soft inside, and the filling was flavourful.
|Banh mi from Banh Mi Caphe.|
|Pho with condiments but not much in the way of herbs.|
|Delicious custard called bánh flan.|
|The restaurant tries to capture some street atmosphere.|
The food is inexpensive and tasty, and has the potential to be even better. We would love to have the opportunity to eat here more often. If only it were closer to home!
I don't normally write about places we've only been to once, but given the distance from our house to Hamilton, we can only say that what we had was good, and keep your eyes on the restaurant's Facebook page for new offerings!
|Menu - page 1|
|Menu - page 2|
Bánh Mì Càphê
198 Victoria Street, Hamilton, New Zealand
(07) 839 1141
Tuesdays to Wednesdays 11am - 4pm
Thursdays to Fridays 11am - 9pm
Saturdays to Sundays 11:30am - 4pm
|Banh Mi Caphe shopfront.|
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