Thursday, 6 March 2014

Nhu Mai, Girrawheen, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

When we came back from Hanoi we were craving bun cha, and Alissa's discovery of Little Lang Nuong in Girrawheen lead to the even greater discovery that the Girrawheen shopping precinct is Perth's Little Vietnam. Seriously, it puts Northbridge to shame. With this in mind, we had to know if good banh mi could be found here too, and in our search the name Nhu Mai kept coming up. Seriously; when you type 'Girrawheen' into Google, Urbanspoon's page for Nhu Mai is the third entry. Girrawheen is a fair distance from our home in Bateman, so a trip to Ikea proved a convenient opportunity for a detour to see if Nhu Mai's banh mi lived up to its reputation.

Nhu Mai has a fairly unassuming exterior filled with gaudy, brightly colour signage that actually does little to promote its main business as a sandwich shop. Perhaps its just so well known for sandwiches it doesn't even have to try, and its a recently expanded range that needs the extra push. Noteworthy is the massive pile of sugarcane sitting in the corner.

You can't help but be drawn to the counter as soon as you enter the shop, its trays containing the delicious fillings that make banh mi the king of sandwiches. While were were in Hanoi, we ate a totally baller foie gras pate banh mi, but we had missed out on eating the fresh, coriander-filled variety. Seeing the ingredients all layed out, Alissa and I were very excited.

Nhu Mai seem to offer two options - pork or chicken, and we both went with the pork option. Looking at the pre-filled baguettes to the left of the display, it was pretty clear that pork is the more popular option. Both versions go for a very reasonable $5 each. When you consider what Toastface Grillah are charging for their Pear Grillz or Danny Zuccho ($9 each between two slices of bread), its almost criminal in comparison.

With the March weather following Perth's annoying habit of being a cruel extension of the already searing summer, Alissa and I decided to go with some sugarcane juice. This hit the spot, providing us with a drink that was cool, sweet and refreshing - especially needed in our car with broken air conditioning.

Nhu Mai did not have a lot of seating inside and had some fairly loud music playing, so we decided to take the banh mi home to eat. Unwrapping the roll and having a closer inspection revealed a very generous selection of various cold cuts, a good serve of carrot, coriander, chilli and tangy sweet relish/sauce. Taking one bite of this banh mi, I was convinced. This was easily one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten, the generous serve of so many cuts of pork, the flavour of coriander and the carrot crunch, the sweetness of the sauce/relish and the kick of the chilli in a lovely, crispy baguette combined in perfect harmony to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Verdict: Excellent
Unlike Alissa, who is pretty much a bread fiend, I don't hold sandwiches in particularly high esteem. To me they just remind me of ho-hum school lunches, and the asking price for so-called gourmet sandwiches are so out of proportion that its no wonder people make the unhealthy choice of a burger instead. I mean, its just putting filling in bread - how hard can it be, right? Easy as it is, the fact that so few places get it right means there must be some art to it, and Nhu Mai are seriously masters. You can keep your overpriced cheesies; Nhu Mai in Girrawheen is where it's at.

Nhu Mai on Urbanspoon

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