We have never had the chance to try some of those places yet, so how happy were we when we realized that a Banh Mi joint had just opened in Shimokitazawa less than a month ago.
Vi-sand, which is an abbreviation of "Vietnamese Sandwich", is quite far your cliche asian joint and looks more like one of those relatively stylish new cafes popping out by the dozens in Tokyo right now. The place is managed by a friendly foreigner (he told me he's a restaurant producer) who is more than willing to help you: when I told him that this was our first Banh Mi ever, he kindly explained me what the dish was all about and what the recommendations were.
Definitely not looking like your average Vietnamese
There is a a choice of 4 Banh Mi: Beef & Lemongrass, Chicken & Ginger, Fish & Tomato and Tofu & Vegetables. My wife and I opted for the most popular "Beef & Lemongrass". By the way, each sandwich comes with a drink and a potato salad.
This is what the Lunch set looks like
I had always imagined Bahn Mi being made of crunchy French Baguette bread but the one we got served after 5 minutes following our order was definitely on the softer side. It has the obvious merit of not hurting your palate, but I would have preferred it crunchier.
Once the surprise of the soft bread is left behind, the second impression is of a nice lemongrass aroma, which gives the dish a pleasant and refreshing taste. The freshness is accentuated by plenty of fresh coriander and mint leaves, some thinly-cut pickled radish and carrot, and some sweet and sour Nuoc Mam fish sauce.
The choice on the menu is mint or coriander but you can add either one for ¥50.
The meat hidden under the vegetables
The little strips of beef are stirred with minced ginger and what seemed to be on a blend of Nam Pla fish sauce and Shoyu soy sauce. They also add some pink-colored liver paste on the bread.
As mentioned earlier, the sandwich comes with a regular potato salad, but you can change that to a soup. The soup might actually be a better choice if you want to keep some sort of Vietnamese vibe to your food.
The not-so Vietnamese potato salad
It's overall a nice lunch though the pricing at ¥750 with a drink and a soup/salad might be very slightly high.
Once again, I have never tried any Bahn Mi before so I have no way of comparing it with other places, but if you have, your comments are welcome.
So there are no surprises when you come here, you should know that they don't serve Bahn Mis for dinner, if not for a Ham Bahm Mi (and some stews, curries and pots)
Vi-Sand is open everyday from 11:00am to 16:00pm for lunch and 18:00pm to 23:00pm for dinner.
2-12-13 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku
Click here for a map