Han and I met up with Kevin at the Marina Del Rey location of Mendocino Farms after I picked Han up from LAX on New Year’s Day Observed (since we all had the day off from work). Kevin, the sandwich connoisseur, spent over $1k on sandwiches alone in 2011, and most of that went to Mendocino Farms. So the place definitely has his stamp of approval. And when we went there for lunch, the place was packed. Still, the line moved along pretty quickly, and we got our sandwiches fairly shortly after. Note that they give a free sample of a side as you move towards the register to pay for your meal – pretty nice touch.
I obviously got the pork belly banh mi ($9.75). Come on, pork belly – how could I resist? I read that this was their most popular sandwich, and Kevin noted that it was his favorite one as well (and he’s tried almost all of their offerings). The description sounded extremely promising: “our Chef’s playful take on the Popular Vietnamese Sandwich with braised, caramelized kurobuta pork belly, housemade pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos, chili aioli on panini grilled ciabatta.” Kevin ordered one as well, in addition to another sandwich that was the daily special. Two sandwiches you say? Well, Han did steal half of one…
So how was the sandwich? For one that has pork belly, it didn’t feel heavy at all. I didn’t remember the pork belly as being all that fatty, and the panini-grilled ciabatta (or as Han would say, chababa) was well-toasted sans any grease. Just a good, clean sandwich. And the accompanying condiments were fairly true to a standard banh mi. Of course, $10 could buy me 5-6 actual banh mi sandwiches, but as far as bougie sandwiches go, this was very satisfying. Just a nice, albeit “Americanized,” reinterpretation of a classic, using higher-quality ingredients. This isn’t to say that I’ve moved on from what is arguably the greatest value item ever, but there is a world of banh mi outside of Westminster/SGV. Need to try some of the other sandwiches though in the future, because some of them sound very promising.
Chris Hei grade: B+
4724 Admiralty Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292