Tú Quỳnh Center Inc.
Does the phrase “headcheese accordion” whet your whistle? If so, run—don’t walk, run—to Tu Quynh in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
This clean, breezy spot single-handedly caused me to question my affection for the Banh Mi, but it also gave me a little much-needed perspective. I learned that the flavor-scale of this sandwich runs wider that the mighty Mekong. Great ones are the stuff of song, the spring in your step, the first flower to bloom. But the bad? Worse than ugly. It’s like stubbing your toe and then being forced to eat it. (The toe.)
Sure, a hot crusty baguette brimming with porky goodness sounds categorically a-ok. But, as I discovered, not all Banh Mi are created equal; much malice can be stuffed in these sandwiches.
Take the TQ version of the Bánh Mì Ðặc Biệt. Their roast pork had the same Red Dye #3 flavor that clings to bad Chiar Siu. If someone decided to whip up a batch of “sugar meatloaf,” this is what it would look and taste like. There was also entirely too much deli meat in the mix. Their pork roll was unusually rubbery, even by the lax standards of Vietnamese bologna. Add large swaths of what I hope was headcheese, but really tasted like sour fat slices pressed with peppercorns, and what do you have? Nothing to recommend, gentle reader.
It still wasn’t all bad. The pickles were a bit sweet, but didn't land me on the receiving end of a “haha, I can’t believe you ate that” joke. And they also did a fine job spreading the pâté on the loaf. But even the bread showed a lack of fighting Banh Mi spirit: very ordinary, a tad yeasty, and woefully under-toasted.
The folks at TQ seemed very nice, but this is a Quest for the Best Banh Mi, not the friendliest. Flavor rules. And on that score, this is one sandwich The Porkchop Express is not eager to revisit anytime soon.
Tú Quỳuh Center Inc.
230 Grand Street A3
Chinatown, New York, NY
Banh Mi: $3.00