A Very Soft Soft Opening: Bean Bánh Mì

Seems like banh mi is having a bit of a resurgence! In addition to Banh Mi Yen Linh (Kingsway & St. Catherines), the new second location of Ba Le (Broadway & Fraser), and the new Chinatown location of DD Mau, a new “modern” banh mi place has taken over the old Tung Hing space on Kingsway & Inverness called “Bean Bánh Mì“. Why “bean”? It’s a family operation and “bean” (đậu) is the son’s nickname which in Vietnamese also means good fortune or prosperity or something like that ;). So they’ve ran with the whole “bean” theme in their marketing. Wicca and I checked them out during their first week of operation.

NOTE: they’re still in their soft opening phase, so things probably will change and hopefully improve!

In a nutshell: the bread needs a lot of work. Some components need to be tweaked. But a promising start with a lot of heart.

They’ve taken over and freshened up the old Tung Hing space on Kingsway. You order on the left and make your way right. There’s a bit of counter space for eating there but it’s mostly a takeout place.

FYI they’ve been selling out and closing early these past few days.

Their small tight menu, duplicated on two screens. Their đặc biệt is $6 which is $1 more than the current standard-bearer Banh Mi Saigon on Victoria Drive. Interesting addition of a Beef Stew (bò kho recipe?) banh mi.

They were all friendly and offered a 10% off discount while they’re in soft opening phase, although the lady at the register made it seem like she was giving the discount just for you! 😉

Cute.

Melon candy.

Steam trays of stuff. This might be the beef stew?

The nem nuong. My pet peeve with cooked/grilled banh mi fillings is that I don’t want it if it looks like it’s been sitting there all day. This stuff looked cooked recently, which is good.

Could be the mushroom & tofu vegetarian option?

Sauces.

Pig’s ears?! Never had pig’s ears in a banh mi before. Intruiged…

As I said above, they’re really running with the “bean” theme and had a slideshow of Vietnam scenes with our bean mascot Photoshopped in.

I like seeing those Asian business-opening flower arrangements.

As with Tung Hing, they bake their own bread here too.

I was afraid about how “modern” they’d make this place. This is actually the extent of it — a paper bag with their logo stamped on it. Whew!

They also use an inner bag to keep everything snug.

#1 Special Tri-Meat Classic ($6). For the most part, all the standard banh mi dac biet fillings, except we didn’t see headcheese. AND they add crunchy pig’s ears.

Right away I could tell the crust too soft and brittle, disintegrating in my hands.

#2 Pork Meat Balls ($5.25).

Sweet, soft xiu mai balls in a sticky sweet sauce. On the sweet side, but perfectly fine for Vietnamese style meat balls.

Good flavour and good bread-to-filling ratio. This banh mi is a bit too wet though, and combined with the too-soft and crumbly bread, it gets a bit messy and falls apart in your hands. If they get a stronger, crisper crust, it might be able to stand up to the saucy filling better.

We noticed the mayo they use tasting kind of runny and weak, almost like a standard mayonnaise instead of the thicker, richer Vietnamese style mayonnaise. If they make more lard-like, that would be better 😉

We also found that the pig’s ear didn’t really add much to the dac biet. Adds a bit of crunch, yes, but flavourwise it just takes up space. We could also use more pate as well. Overall it didn’t hit that classic taste and balance of a banh mi dac biet. The too-soft bread is the main problem, but I’m sure they can nail it in time.

Their approach and menu is different enough from Banh Mi Saigon that I think they can comfortably coexist in this market. But they need to step up the bread.

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