Bánh mì in Louisville (part 5 of an onging series): Return to Dong Phuong

I’m revisiting old haunts, since I’m running out of new blood. At some point I still need to get down to Cafe Thuy Van to figure out the score, and get out to NamNam to see if the East End can hack it, and if they ever actually open see if Saigon One can make a bánh mì (they have bò kho with baguette, so the ingredients should be there). This Tuesday I found myself rolling downtown at midday, and I figured I’d hop a southbound TARC bus to National Turnpike, but I never actually saw any southbound #4s despite riding along their route, so I ended up rolling down, and stopping a bit shy of my goal and revisiting Dong Phuong: I needed a photo of their goods anyways, and wanted to see if they’d expanded their offerings.

[Photo of a sandwich from Dong Phuong]Dong Phuong (6705 Strawberry Lane), as previously mentioned, is actually a grocery with a deli counter, and for a sit-down you need to go next door to Phở Bình Minh. Their menu has 6 varieties of bánh mì listed, but I despair of them ever being able to make the most interesting ones, since on this visit they only had the thịt nguội and chả lụa, both at $3.00. rounded out my lunch with a $1.50 cup of nước sâm, which I had never had before (it’s apparently sweetened artichoke tea. It’s better than I make it sound, but not enough better that Americans who aren’t rabid novelty-seekers like I am would like it). The clerk was hopelessly distracted by the telephone and later by a customer, so the whole ordering process ended up a bit more complicated and drawn-out than it had to be, and the sandwich took about 7 minutes to make.

Some things stood out on a closer investigation than I had bothered with my last time here, since I’m now much more critically aware of my sandwiches. For instance, this time around the roll had an alarmingly prefabricated feel, with a pleasingly brittle crust but an insubstantial interior which didn’t give me much “fresh-baked” confidence. The dressing seemed a bit improved from my previous experience: the mayo was eggy and rich, but laid on thinly enough not to dominate. The fish-sauce elements were still somewhat lacking, however. Otherwise on the filling front the quality remains high, with generous pickled veggies and cilantro and a substantial cucumber spear. Three types of cold cut made up the interior: roast pork, chả lụa, and a translucent, fatty cut that I couldn’t quite identify (no pâté, though!), . The hot peppers (added on request) were pleasantly non-dominant, and actually quite bulky, which was a surprise, used as I am to tiny fiery rings; the large chunks of mild jalapeño, some of them ripened and red, added a decent crunch without oversetting the flavor balance.

The most obvious divergence in my experience from last time was my sense of the baguette’s unsatisfactory nature; perhaps Dong Phuong has a variety of rolls and it’s up in the air which style or manufacture appears? Outside of the bread issue, the sandwich was recognizably the same and showed signs of competent and balanced composition, so I’m still, on balance, pretty satisfied, although I wish I could learn what the deal is with the meats they can’t or won’t do.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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