Friday, November 27, 2009

Fast Food - Num Pang

I'm about to write something that may make me lose my license as a lover of the city life (and it's not that I haven't been paying my rent, despite the scary chalk drawing above).

Sometimes, I really resent brunch, which is not a popular opinion being that this weekly or for some bi-weekly late-morning festival of gluttony is among the most important rituals of city living.

That's not to say that I don't like the food. I love eggs. I love potatoes. I love breakfast meats. And every now and then I even pancakes. I also love that it makes eating lunch food before 1 PM not seem strange. However, eating a big meal at 11 AM always throws off my eating for the rest of the day. I get hungry again at about 5 PM, which confuses me. Should I eat a snack? Hold out for dinner? Eat an early dinner (dunch?) I'm in a tailspin.

But every now and then it leads to serendipitous experiences, as was the case last Sunday, when Daniel and I found ourselves in need of a snack while wandering around the East Village at around 4:30. Should we eat? Hold off for dinner? What to do? I did a quick mental rundown of places in the area that I'd wanted to try, casual enough that we could get something small and tasty enough to be worth our time - and then it hit me - Num Pang, the Cambodian-style bahn mi joint on 12th Street. And we were off...

It's a very hipster little shop, with kitschy chalk-style drawings (see above) in the upstairs sitting area, which also proudly overlooks a parking garage - huge (though slightly grimy) picture windows give you a full view of people validating their parking passes below.

You have to order and pay outside though, which would be frustrating on a cold, rainy day, but would also make it a very speedy take-out option, especially at more prime time eating hours.

The menu of sandwiches, all served banh mi style on French bread with pickles and herbs and mayo, was overwhelming. Each one sounded amazing - from the roasted cauliflower with Chinese and Thai eggplant spread to the grilled king mackerel with leeks to the lemongrass chicken liver pate. They even had a veal meatball sandwich, which was thrilling because Daniel never gets to eat Asian meatballs due the ever present porcine effect.

In the end though, we went for one of the specials - a ginger braised brisket with all the trimmings - pickles, cilantro, carrots, and mayo.

This was some good sandwich. The bread had the perfect French crackle, made even more satisfying with a nice toasting. And oh that brisket - this was meat that you could serve at a Seder with pride - incredibly tender with the perfect sweet, sour, savory blend that so well befits brisket. The cilantro/carrot/pickle mix added the more traditional South East Asian sandwich flavor really hold there own with the richness of the beef and all in all it made mouths happy...

I was less thrilled with the side of market pickles that we ordered. It was a nice idea - a mix of watermelon rind, rhubarb, celery root, and turnip - but the pickles had no snap to them, neither in taste nor in texture. They were flaccid and overly sweet.

Still though, the sandwich split between two made for a perfect late afternoon snack. One recommendation for future outings to Num Pang - either eat upstairs and enjoy the surly chalk drawings and happy parkers below, or take your food to another stationary location, because while the sandwich holds together nicely, it is a messy beast. We left no napkin in our wake -

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