Monday, March 14, 2011

Co Ba: Mediocre Banh Mi

Serious Eats, you have failed me.  Serious Eats NY recently had a post titled “The Best Banh Mi in Manhattan, NYC” that listed the top ten banh mi establishments in the city.  I foolishly believed them.  I feel swindled.  Number one on their list, Banh Mi Zon, I immediately crossed out because the photo of the classic sandwich didn’t look particularly appetizing – where was the delicious roast pork?

I decided I wanted to give number two a try, Co Ba.  My go-to banh mi place, Banh Mi Saigon, was number four on the list.  I absolutely LOVE their banh mi, so based on Serious Eats’ recommendation, I figured Co Ba had to be nothing short of amazing.

Wah.  Where to begin?  I ordered two different banh mi to go:

Banh mi thit: Assorted cold cuts, grilled honey plum-glazed pork, house-made pickles, cilantro, jalapenos, and mayo on a French baguette

Cilantro sandwich?

 Pork, where art thou?

Banh mi thit kho: Caramelized pork belly braised in coconut juice with pickled bean sprouts, cilantro, and jalapenos on a French baguette

"Smoky" pork belly

I had the same issues with both of them: 

1) Where’s the meat??  I opened up the baguette only to find cilantro and pickled veggies.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my cilantro, but I would have loved a more substantial portion of the honey plum-glazed pork

2) Burnt.  My husband called it a “smoky” flavor, he was being nice.  I can perhaps give them credit and agree that the pork in the banh mi thit was smoky.  The pork belly, on the other hand, tasted smoky burnt. 

3) Me vs. Baguette, baguette won.  I enjoy a nice, crunchy baguette as much as the next person, but when the baguette is so hard that you are fighting with it (and possibly cracking some molars), that just further contributes to a not so pleasant eating experience.

Additionally, I tried Co Ba’s Pho Bo (rice sticks in oxtail broth served with sliced sirloin, bean sprouts and fresh herbs).  What do you know, the same question came up here as with the banh mi – where is that delicious sliced sirloin?  There were two pieces.  I was left with a dish of hoisin sauce with nothing to dip in it.  

Service: Waiter was nice, our waters were refilled, not much else to mention here.

Ambience: The restaurant is relatively small, with only a few small tables.  It was quiet and easy to hold a conversation.   

Score: 2 out of 5 piggies.  Sigh, I really wanted to like Co Ba.  But alas, I will be going back to my old faithful Banh Mi Saigon.  The banh mis there are twice the size, half the price, and three times as good.  You do the math.  Stay tuned for my post on Banh Mi Saigon!

Co Ba
110 9th Avenue (between 17th and 18th)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 414-2700


Christina said... mention "ease of conversation" as a positive point about Co Ba, with no mention of the animated and enthralling friend who provided said conversation. Should such a friend be accounted for, Co Ba would be left with very few positives to call its own.

sonoeun said...

you had a waiter at a banh mi place??? that should've given it away immediately!

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