So we braved the weekday evening traffic and drove up to Mira Mesa. The place looks the same since they opened back in 2011.
Something has changed since I first visited way back when, the Nem Nuong Cuon and the Chao Tom Cuon, which were straight out of the Brodard playbook, down to the fried spring roll wrappers tucked inside.....sort of a sign of freshness since you really can't make it this way ahead of time.
The Nem Nuong, the pork "sausage" was better in our opinion, more flavor, nice texture. The shrimp cake was too rubbery and had little flavor. Actually, the Missus preferred this to Brodard for one simple reason; Ban Mai uses a touch of herbs in the rolls. I will say that the dipping sauce here is fairly bad, very bland, weird texture....I'm not a fan of the version at Brodard, but it is much sweeter, with a more silken texture. We'll get the nuoc mam cham next time.....
The Missus did enjoy Her Banh Xeo.
The version here is crisp and light and not super-stuffed......like a Banh Mi, it's all about balance and proportion. The pork is decent as was the shrimp, though there's not a whole lot of it. It's still not as good as the first one I had here in 2011, but it's still my favorite. I'm also glad they don't water down the dipping sauce either.
I decided to go with something I hadn't had here before and had the Banh Mi Bo Kho - Beef Stew with bread.
This wasn't bad, though it's not as rich and full of flavor as the version at Lucky. It does taste a bit watered down, the meat is decent, but still a bit more chewy than I prefer and there's not as much tendon in it as well. The bread, which looked like a standard "Le Chef" version was nicely warmed. Not bad, but I won't be having this again.
The service was meh....bunch of guys more concerned about "talking story" but not terrible. What I'm thinking is, maybe there'll be some Banh Khot on the menu next time. Wouldn't that be interesting?
Pho Ban Mai
8991 Mira Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92126