We’ve had so many other things on our plate this week that cooking at home has pretty much been a luxury, rather than the norm. We’ve eaten out more than we usually do–by a long-shot–so that old “What do you want to eat? I don’t know. What do YOU want to eat?” question has gotten harder and harder as we’ve gone along. By the time we were discussing what to eat for an early supper today, I was almost lost … until I spotted the sign at iSandwich!
I know: the name’s kinda corny. However, that’s often a badge of honor for Vietnamese delis and pho restaurants. In fact, one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurant names here in Seattle is “Un-Pho-Getable! … so I figure someone had to come up with this high-tech iSandwich gem at some point around here. It was inevitable! And we do have a favorite place for Vietnamese sandwiches already. They also make the best spring rolls on the planet, but–unfortunately–it’s nearly 10 miles north of our house, in the opposite direction from my husband’s office … so–to eat there–we usually have to either do it on the weekends, or he has to drive more than 20 miles from his office to get there … just to get our food.
Does that give you any indication of how much we love that place, especially if we’d drive that far at least once a month to eat their food? It’s true: we love it, and we’re loyal to it. However, with gas prices rising every day … we decided to test-drive some Vietnamese restaurants closer to our house again, to see if we could find another one that would suffice, at least part of the time. That’s why I’m glad I spotted the sign at iSandwich today!
They’re in a tiny little strip mall along the Aurora Corridor in Shoreline, kinda down lower than street level, so they’re a little hard to find. If you GPS, the address is:
14705 Aurora Ave N
(between 145th St & 149th St)
Shoreline, WA 98133
I went in pursuit of a Vietnamese sandwich–known in their culture as Banh Mi--and I had no problem fulfilling that goal at iSandwich. Tell me if the sight of this makes you as hungry as it makes me
In case you’ve never had one before yourself, what you’re looking at is a classic grilled pork Banh Mi: a chewy/crusty eight-inch French roll, loaded down with–at least in this case–grilled pork. Banh Mi actually come in all sorts of varieties. My husband usually prefers the sliced beef, but–depending on the deli/restaurant–you can also get grilled beef, BBQ pork (the red dyed stuff), shredded pork, tofu, chicken, or any number of other versions, including veggie. Then–in addition to the bread and protein–your classic Vietnamese sandwich includes:
- fresh cilantro
- thin-sliced or julienned cucumbers
- thin-sliced or julienned carrot pickles***
- thin-sliced or julienned daikon radish, often pickled*** as well
- thin sliced jalapeno peppers
***marinated at least two hours in a brine of 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 Tbsp. sugar, and 2 Tbsp. salt
Then the whole thing is dressed with a mix of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Again, the combination hits all of the different taste receptors: salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and savory … as well as being a glorious mix of crunchy, chewy, tender and crisp … making Banh Mi a very satisfying and filling meal all the way around!
Bonus points: that sandwich cost me $3.50!
I also wanted something sweet to go with my Banh Mi, and I was in luck: iSandwich does fruit smoothies and bubble milk tea as well. However, they didn’t have durian … which disappointed me. I LOVE the stuff, personally …. which shocked the man behind the counter when I asked if they had it. He’s the first Vietnamese shop owner/worker who actually vocalized what I’ve seen on all their other faces. He said, “You don’t look like someone who likes durian” … and then he followed it up with the same question they ALL ask me: “Are you sure that’s what you want?”
I assured him that I loved durian, and that–if he had durian smoothies the next time I came through–I’d definitely order one! I think it impressed him even more when I told him that I ate durian “fresh” the first time I tasted it. Why? you ask. Well, that’s simple. Durian is a large, spiky fruit … that most airlines won’t let you bring on their planes … because it absolutely REEKS! The best description I’ve ever heard of durian is that it smells like an open sewer, but tastes like strawberries and pineapple.
I know. Some of you just said “then why don’t you just eat strawberries and pineapple together … and skip the other, less-appetizing bits of durian?”
My answer is: because it’s just not the same! The creamy, silky texture inside the durian makes it … not just the flavor! However, there was no durian in the restaurant today …. so I opted for a passion fruit bubble smoothie!
If you’ve never had anything ‘bubble’ …. isn’t this fascinating looking?
Oh my! My smoothie was ALSO a score! The liquid is passion fruit puree, blended a little water and ice. The dark globes in the bottom of my smoothie are black tapioca pearls, a product made from the starch of the cassava plant. The little yellowish bars are chunks of passion fruit. And then the straw they give you to drink this concoction is about 3/4-inch in diameter, so that–as you drink the liquid part–you also get all these fascinating things to chew at the same time. It’s kinda like a dessert AND a drink, all rolled into one
Final score: I was really impressed with iSandwich overall! They’re tiny and hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for … but now that I do, I won’t soon forget that I gave this meal a solid A. The only thing that kept me from tacking a “plus” on that grade was the fact that their ‘grilled pork’ began life as that red-dyed bbq pork stuff. I could taste it, despite all the terriyaki sauce and caramelization. It was all-around tasty: but that hint of Chinese Five-Star spice you normally find in the red-dyed BBQ pork was distinct … and just a tiny bit distracting, given that I’ve never encountered that particular taste in a grilled pork Banh Mi before.