Food & Drink | TOKYO FOOD FILE

Banh Mi Bakery: Flavor and consistency straight out of Saigon

by Robbie Swinnerton

Special To The Japan Times

Banh Mi Bakery stands right across the road from Ebisu Yokocho. But with its colorful typography and bottles of nuoc mam fish sauce arrayed in the window, it looks like it’s been beamed over straight from the streets of Saigon. Better yet, it smells and tastes like it.

This is not the first place in Tokyo to offer excellent banh mi. But nowhere else prepares these Vietnamese sandwiches with quite the same flourish of flavors. You have a choice of nine fillings, ranging from traditional pork pate and smooth, pink ham — both prepared in-house to their own recipes — to rather more out-there combinations. Chili-mayo-shrimp with avocado, anyone?

Remarkably, there are two vegetarian options, including a variant stuffed with agedōfu (deep-fried tofu) and veggies. But carnivores will want to zoom in on the grilled pork or grilled beef tendon (ask for gyū-suji). Generously piled up with shredded vegetables and lubricated with plenty of that pungent fish sauce, these sandwiches literally ooze with goodness.

And that’s what makes the bread so crucial. Banh Mi Bakery, as the name makes clear, makes its own from scratch. The owners even went and apprenticed in Vietnam to ensure they got the perfect consistency — not too crisp, as French baguettes often are, but light and airy enough to soak up all those juices.

That means you need to eat them promptly. But once you’ve lined up and got your order — Banh Mi Bakery only does take-out — the chances are you’ll be ready to crush it on the spot.

Banh mi from ¥580; English menu; little English spoken