Sunday, January 16, 2011
Banh Mi Battel-Burlington MA
What: Saigon Chicken Sandwich
Where: Cheesecake Factory
75 Middlesex Turnpike
Burlington MA 01803
How much: $11.50
Time of visit: a Saturday about 1PM
In case you have not been reading the blog for long, battel is a purposeful spelling in homage to a favorite of mine, Kaiju Big Battel. Lucky for Philly, Kaiju and its live monster mayhem will be batteling after a long absence later this month. If you are anywhere close, you need to experience this at least once in your life. FreeEye2, Taters and I went a bunch of years back and it will be an event I will always remember.
In an effort to make things a bit more scientific, I will include day and time of said meal if I think it may matter. A Banh Mi served on a Friday at 12 Noon is bound to be better than one on a Tuesday at 4PM so you may want to take that in mind.
(readers, cue Weezer - In The Mall) (clicking on link should open YouTube in a new browser tab so you can hear my selected audio track playing, but you will have to click back on this tab to return) (this finally works again)
This day's travels took me to Burlington MA. YM, Taters, SheGong and I were there to see K on top of the podium. Lunch was the next order of business. K picked where and luckily, I got material for the blog.
Cheesecake Factory is an amazing place, though I hestitate to use the word restaurant. Their food quality is consistant and portions large. The staff is usually well trained and enthusiastic. Lots of seating, constant crowds and enormous desserts... It is not a place for exploration, but the menu is so big, everyone can find something to eat. Bonus points for the beer menu at most locations in that they make an effort to carry a local microbrew. Harpoon I.P.A. was on tap here in Burlington MA.
The entree was listed in the sandwich section. It was labeled as a "Saigon Chicken Sandwich". Based on the description, I'd call it a Banh Mi attempt, but with a name that won't scare aware the customers. There were "Vietnamese Tacos" on the menu with pork, not chicken and a similar ingredient list.
Banh Mi University graduate? Ah, CF seems to be doomed to repeat the advanced bread course. The sandwich was eaten on premisis, not taken out as is my usual habit. This made unobtrusive photography a bit difficult. That said, take out is usually in black plastic containers, probably not the white deli wrap and elastic as I would expect from the genuine article. Bread the big downfall as I would have expected. It was very crusty on the outside much like the bread from my trip to Black Diamond, but fresher. The inside was heavier/denser with larger air pockets and much chewier than my Banh Mi ideal. The "French baguette" was also a bit narrow and the filling kept falling out of the sides. The Banh Mi was served with toothpicks holding it together. The chicken was there in quantity and tasty, looking charbroiled and well flavored with lemongrass as promised in the menu. The chicken pieces were about four by two inch chunks about an inch and a half thick (a bit too thick for my tastes and contributing to the ingredients falling out problem). The pieces were very tender and looked to be breast meat. Plant material was much better than my low expectations. The cilantro was very limp, probably from the heat of the chicken and being crushed by the bread by the time it was served. There was not one hint of darkness on the leaves, though I would have preferred a bit more. Carrots were marinated too well/long with rice vinegar and not crisp at all. There were some red onion slivers. The cucumber was sliced into circles and marinated in rice vinegar as well. This was a mistake in my opinion as the sandwich needed the fresh cucumber crunch. Some scallions were added, though not mentioned on the menu. The smear of "shallot mayonnaise" was generous and moistened everything very nicely. The menu said chiles, but I saw no sign of them. A couple of jalapenos would have been very nice. The Banh Mi did not seem at all hot or spicy. Sandwich size was comparable to most, but as I said earlier, a bit narrow. The sandwich was very thick, mainly due to the dense bread and large chicken pieces. There was a side of sauce that came with the sandwich that seemed more "Thai peanut" than anything else. Decent french fires were served "frites" style in a little paper cone with the meal. Still not traditional, but at least they were not steak fries. Service was fast for a busy Saturday with no language barrier.
The place was clean. The wait was a thirty minutes. Parking at the mall was as bad as a Saturday at the mall after a recent snowfall can be. I'll give them an extra half a cheek for a chain restaurant making the effort to offer the public an attempt at Viet food. At $11.50, still not the most expensive Banh Mi I've had. It was decent mall meal.
I'd give it 1.5B/6 total.
I'm still trying to get be back to Dorchester MA to get to Chau Bakery and the place that will replace Hau Giang. I did check out the Provience RI Banh Mi scene very unsuccessfully, but that will be a post for later.