Saturday, March 15, 2008

Restaurant: Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches

Calling Nicky's a restaurant is using the term very loosely. It is more like a takeout storefront with 3 tables and about 7 or 8 chairs. Clearly, from the name alone, Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches serves Vietnamese style sandwiches. Personally, I have never had these before, but I know what they consist of and they always sounded delicious to me. On a recent Saturday I took a quick trip down to Avenue B to taste test and find out if they were as good as some of the reviews I had read. Interestingly, the negative things I had read, such as "too small", "expensive", "not authentic", are the types of comments that people make who are trying to find something wrong instead of liking what is right about a place. I think that using authenticity as a measuring stick for whether something is good or bad is a very odd way to determine quality. Just cause something is authentic, doesn't mean it is any better than something that is made a little differently.

I almost walked right by Nicky's since it is tucked away right behind a deli, and is very quietly marked as far as awnings go in the city. Upon walking in you could tell it was popular by the phone constantly ringing and the large group of people waiting outside for their orders. Originally, I had only planned on getting the classic Banh Mi Thit which consists of pate, Vietnamese ham and roast ground pork, but after looking at the menu I couldn't resist also ordering the Pork Chop sandwich. Both sandwiches were quite large, and the thick, crunchy French baguette was much better than about 90% of your normal deli rolls. The "classic Vietnamese sandwich" was delicious combining pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro and mayo with the three meats. I have to say, I couldn't actually find the pate, but I am not complaining because the food was delicious and plenty big for lunch. It may not fit the traditional sandwich that you would find in Vietnam (and I don't have any reference) but the the sweetness of the cucumber, combined with the savory meat and pickled carrots really dances on the tongue. Plus I added jalapenos that occasionally surprise you just when you think you are going to get that subtle sweetness in the next bite. Oh, and this was $4.50. I guess if you were in sunset park or Vietnam it might be a dollar, but last I checked even a small place in the east village doesn't exactly have the cheapest rent in the world.

Not surprisingly I forced myself to attack the pork chop sandwich right after I finished the first. Any time you can combine the words pork chop and sandwich, you will probably find me handing money over. In this instance I was thrilled to find the second sandwich even better than the first. The pork, although a little fatty compared to the leaner pork chops I usually eat, was perfectly seasoned and cooked to the point that it's juices had soaked into the bread. The toppings were the same as the first sandwich, with cilantro, cucumber, jalapeno, and pickled carrots. The difference between the first and the second sandwich was that the pork stood up to the strong flavored vegetables much better. While I could taste the cilantro and jalapenos, and still got the pickled sweetness of the carrots and cucumbers, the pork stood out as the dominant flavor of the entire sandwich.

All in all I know I will be back to pick up another sandwich or two from Nicky's, and maybe try their sardine or chicken Banh Mi versions. Next time, however, I think I will stick to one so I can avoid a solid food coma. Then again, $9.50 for two big flavorful sandwiches is hard to argue with...

Pate on a sandwich?

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