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NYC

Review

David Lee

Bánh

Written by
David Lee

In a neighborhood that contains the Lincoln Center, Juilliard, and a large chunk of that big, centrally-located park, a tiny restaurant called Bánh has become one of the most exciting places to visit.

After running a couple of popular pop-ups in 2020, this Vietnamese spot opened as a full sit-down restaurant that same year on Amsterdam Avenue. And boy are we glad. The dishes on the menu have inspired us on occasion to bike up Riverside Park to eat them, and, while there’s a number of great Vietnamese places in Manhattan (shout-out to Saigon Social, Thai Son, and Hanoi House), the food at Bánh is so well-executed it stands out amongst the rest.

David A. Lee

Bánh’s bún bò bơ, with its carrots, cucumbers, and tender beef, makes for a refreshing lunch that’s anchored by chilled and bouncy noodles, and the bánh mì loaded with charbroiled pork belly is a contender for the best in the city. It’s drizzled with scallion oil and comes with a swipe of hoisin sauce, and there’s a satisfying char on the almost-sweet meat. As for the crispy pork-filled bánh chưng chiên, we’re pretty sure that could be the focus of a TED Talk on how a restaurant should fry foods — the two rice-coated ovals are delicately fried and not too oily, with a tangy soy dressing on the side. All of these dishes now have a permanent place in our weeknight and midday meal rotation.

David A. Lee

We specify “midday meal rotation” because that’s the best time to come here. Bánh doesn’t take reservations, and word has spread around the neighborhood (and city) about how great this place is — so the waits for tables can approach an hour, even as early as 6pm. Luckily, Bánh is open pretty much all day on weekends, and, if you come here before the dinner rush (which starts around 5pm), chances are you’ll be able to snag a seat.

Between an appetizer and an entree, you can easily walk away having spent $30 on an exciting dinner. Plus, the casual setup makes this place perfect for a meetup with a friend or a chill date with a partner you’ve been seeing for a couple of years. After you eat, you can hit one of the tourist attractions nearby, or maybe catch a show at the Lincoln Center. Whatever route you go, your meal at Bánh will still be the highlight of the night.

Food Rundown

David A. Lee
Bánh Chưng Chiên

Two deep-fried hunks of savory pork and mung bean, all wrapped in glutinous rice. Any restaurant who fries things could learn a lesson from Bánh and this bánh chưng chiên. If you’d like something plant-based, there’s also a vegan version with mushrooms subbed in for pork.

David A. Lee
Bún Bò Bơ

This very large bowl is the perfect thing to order on a hot summer day. The noodles are chilled, the beef is incredibly tender and rich from soaking in the lemongrass marinade, and there are lots of vegetables to make this a really refreshing dish.

David A. Lee
Bánh Mi

There are plenty of options to choose from in the bánh mi category here, but our top picks are the fried chicken and charbroiled pork belly varieties. The chicken is seasoned with turmeric then fried and topped with chili butter, while the pork belly comes doused in scallion oil and hoisin sauce. Both versions arrive on a crusty roll.

Phở

A very rich and star-anise-and-cinnamon-forward soup. Make this a staple for the cozy months of the year.

Specials

Like 79% of all restaurants, Bánh has rotating weekly (and weekend) specials that you should look out for. On one occasion, we tried a rice roll dish with some of the crispiest pork belly we’ve ever had. One bite, and the skin made a crackling noise that could be heard in East Harlem. OK, maybe that’s hyperbole.

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