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My First: Banh Mi at Les Givrals

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My banh mi cherry has been popped. A few weeks ago, after a vigorous yoga class at YogaOne, my yoga partner and I were famished and she suggested heading around the corner to Les Givrals. I'd never had banh javascript:void(0);mi and was excited to try it, having read several articles in praise of the Vietnamese sandwiches at Les Givrals right here on Eating Our Words.

On my friend's advice I ordered the Banh Mi #1 (Thit Nuong Pate) for $3, and I added the Bo Bia summer rolls--pre-rolled and wrapped--for another $3.25; with my bottled water, the grand total was $8.48 for what turned out to be a large amount of food. We sat down and got to work on our summer rolls while our sandwiches were being prepared.

The rolls kept me good and busy. With large shrimp, mint, shredded lettuce and rice noodles wrapped in rice paper, these rolls were more than satisfying as an appetizer. I loved that I could taste the fresh mint, and I was even more impressed with how clean the shrimp tasted--pre-rolled, pre-wrapped shrimp rolls do not always go your way, if you know what I mean. The dipping sauce was equal parts sweet and rich but didn't hide any of the flavors of the roll. Just as I bit into my second roll, my sandwich was ready.

Since this was my very first banh mi, I didn't have anything to compare it to, but I enjoyed it. I found the fresh French bread to be very crusty on the outside and soft on the inside--necessary from a textural standpoint, to allow me to smash the sandwich to an edible thickness. The richness of the pate was highlighted by the brightness of the parsley and the sweetness of the barbecue pork. I liked the heat from the jalapeno pepper, although I would have liked it to be just a little bit hotter.

The veggies--cucumber and carrots--were crispy and fresh, and allowed me to create the illusion of eating a healthy post-yoga lunch. I initially feared that the bread would prove to be too filling, but it was not, although I did leave a bit in the basket. I ate both spring rolls and 98 percent of the sandwich and felt full, but not uncomfortably so.

I know Les Givrals is not the only place in Houston for banh mi, so I'll ask you--have I already scaled the ultimate Vietnamese sandwich summit, or should I be seeking higher ground?

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