Take a Bao
Busy chef Michael "Bao" Hunyh has elevated Vietnamese home-cooking to new levels at restaurants like Bun, Bao Noodles and Mai House. Now he's redefining Vietnamese fast food with superb ingredients in nontraditional combinations at his new Murray Hill restaurant, Baoguette.
Huynh and his wife, Thao Nguyen, have turned a former Blimpie's into a sandwich counter specializing in Vietnam's answer to the hero: bánh mi. But Baoquette's sandwiches are nothing like the ones you'll find in Chinatown. The moist, fleshy filling of the spicy catfish bánh mi (pictured, $7) is sauced with a honey-mustard aioli and encased in a remarkably crisp Tom Cat Bakery baguette. These baguettes, which also surround bánh mi featuring pork, BBQ chicken and curried minced beef ($5 to $7), also stand up well when dipped in a spicy beef stew ($7) that's fragrant with anise and lemongrass.
Baoguette is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but on busy days the sandwiches can disappear before dinnertime. Your backup plan might include papaya salad, summer rolls or spicy noodle soup ($5 to $8). Another good choice is the excellent catfish-topped rice noodles ($8), which are decorated with jalapeño, cilantro, mint and crushed peanuts and bathed in sweet-spicy fish sauce that won't leave you high and dry.
Baoguette, 61 Lexington Ave. (between 25th and 26th sts.); 212-518-4089 or baoguette.com