Cafe Bunn Mi in The Inner Richmond
Next trip: The Crispy Duck Sandwich
It would take a dog’s life span to experience everything that Clement Street in the Inner Richmond has to offer, culinary and otherwise. That’s why being in the restaurant business and/or having friends in said business helps immeasurably. Recently, a work friend recommended Café Bunn Mi, situated on the south side of the street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. In particular, the Barbequed Pho was a standout apparently worthy of special mention. Having trouble imagining what that might entail (an amorphous blob of soup suspended magically in the air, slowly rotating over a glowing bed of coals?), I decided to see and taste it for myself.
Café Bunn Mi is a well-groomed little place, with strange but chic light fixtures providing illumination and a few tasteful paintings gracing the burgundy walls, adding up to a sartorial quality I don’t normally associate with the peddling of Vietnamese sandwiches. One of the best and most fetishized bánh mi shops in the city is Saigon Sandwich, which is minimalistic and more than a little rough around the edges (it’s since undergone a minor facelift mandated by the city). Which isn’t a criticism; stylistically Café Bunn Mi is the exception, not the rule.
The Barbequed Pho: initially disappointing and not very remarkable until I sussed out the proper way to treat the pork: give the slices a rough tossing around in the broth to dislodge all the black carbonized bits and swirl them into the broth. Boom goes the dynamite: liquid barbeque.
The sandwich: two of three main requisites for my Combination Pork Bahn Mi were there: a fresh, warm bun with a light, flaky crunch; properly pickled carrots, cilantro and jalapeno; only the third was slightly lacking: the ratio of said vegetables to meat (roast pork, “fancy” pork, head cheese and pate) was out of balance in favor of the former.
Many friends and associates of mine are better schooled in the proper and traditional execution of a Bahn Mi, and perhaps they could tell me all the things they at Café Bunn Mi are supposedly doing wrong, but for the most part I judge my meals mostly on flavor balance and texture; too often reaching for an ideal of authenticity becomes a pedantic exercise at the expense of tangible enjoyment. Good is good. I’m headed back soon to try The Crispy Duck Sandwich.
Cafe Bunn Mi
417 Clement St.,