Shakespeare famously wrote, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, and while I believe him to be correct when it comes to roses, I’m not sure his logic applies to restaurants. There is something special when a restaurant is able to cleverly capture the exact way their food makes you feel in their name. Oh Mai, is such a place. Though this rule only applies if you think of the name as you would in English, “Oh My”, as you savor each bite! If taken in it’s Vietnamese translation, mai means tomorrow and in my experience when Oh Mai’s dishes pop in my mind, the last thing I want to do is delay having their delightful fare ’till it be morrow’. In which case we digress back to Shakespeare’s original thought – What’s in a name?
Enough analyzing, let’s delve into the grub! Their Banh Mi sandwiches are my absolute favorite, the baguettes are large classic French crunchy outer shell and soft inside, they’re able to soak up all the pickled carrots and spice-fish sauce combos without becoming soggy. This may seem a small detail, but is an element that can make or break any sandwich experience and I’m a firm believer there is a special place in hell for those who serve others soggy bread. Thus far I’ve tried the honey glazed pork, curry chicken, and spicy short-rib. When selecting the honey glazed pork or short-rib I always add a sunny side up egg. The perfect egg yolk ooze adds a subtle buttery richness that cheese fiends will find comforting, perhaps not even realizing cheese is the element they subconsciously miss in Vietnamese fare.
If you want lighter fare, I recommend the curry chicken vermicelli noodle “bun”, just request heavy romaine and sprouts, light chilled rice noodles. Add spice to kick up your metabolism and enjoy a light, savory, summer dish that is sure to leave you full.
On cold days nothing beats their pho, the brisket is a favorite and tends to be the gateway pho drug. If you’re feeling more adventurous try the meatball pho, Vietnamese style meatballs have a more buoyant consistency than the Italian/American versions, which tend to be heavier. Instead of simply mixing ground meat as done in Italian/American versions, Vietnamese meatballs are taken to paste form and contain baking powder making the consistency, as Gastronomic Travels describes “bouncy”. Regardless of which protein you choose, the beef pho broth is center stage complete with anise, ginger, and cinnamon. The licorice-like flavor of anise coupled with the sweet and peppery tones of ginger is spice-pairing perfection.