Chopstix Number Two, Part Two
July 18, 2011
Ten days back I broke news that the new Chopstix location (372-BOBA) was finally open on Munras next to the Del Monte Shopping Center. Over the last three workdays I've been by a couple of times to see how things are simmering along.
Last Thursday the place was pumping. I swung by for some bahn mi and the sleek marble bar...
...and comfortably roomy and padded booths were full, as were the limited outside tables.
While owner Mikey Nguyen helped the kitchen brave the lunch rush, slinging out popular number 23s (stir-fried shrimp with rice, tomato and cucumber, $6.50), vegetarian spring rolls (with tofu, veggie ham, cabbage and fresh mint, $5) and number 1 beef-meatball phos ($5.50/regular; $6.50/large)...
...his grandpa (over Nguyen's left shoulder) was working on the landscaping out front, where they plan on seeding grass. Nguyen says more outside seating and umbrellas are on the way as well.
It truly is a family operation, with these lamps recently brought back from Hoi An, the beating heart of traditional Vietnamese art and a great place for a hand tailored suit for super affordable prices, by Nguyen's mother precisely for the new restaurant.
My second trip I tried Nguyen's recommended grilled five-spice chicken over vermicelli and lettuce with chunks of cucumber, sprouts, a little mint and sprinklings of peanuts (pictured at the very top, $5.50-$6.50), the kind of tasty-if-not-amazing value that had the place doing brisk commerce at the normally quiet hour of 2:30pm. It's nice to see a family-owned spot figure out a formula that appeals to the younger crowd and isn't a chain called Chipotle. The also-recommended house milk tea with a touch of boba ($2.50) was nice too.
The first visit I had to go to my staple, bahn mi, the traditional Vietnamese baguette sandwich with the "combination" one-two of pâté and steamed pork. I love its fresh confluence of cilantro and carrot with the buttery richness of the pâté and the soft but meaty oinker; I love it that much more at $3.25, though it is petite.
I didn't really have a choice, since it had been on my mind since I recently peeked at an Anthony Bourdain saliva maker from—in keeping with the theme—Hoi An itself.
And for the purposes of comprehension I tried one of increasingly-Peninsula-present Charles Phan's bahn mi versions last weekend at the Ferry Building's Out the Door. The flavorful-creative fusion of his vegetarian sandwich, with mushroom pâté, carmelized red onions, braised tat soi, cilantro and the clincher, pickled jicama, was eye-opening excellence. But it also ran $8.50.