Fly to Portland, Oregon, take a cab from the airport direct to the corner of 2nd Avenue and Taylor Street, walk into Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen and order the grilled pork banh mi.
The commute might cost a few hundred euro but the sandwich itself is just $8. If it’s the middle of winter (as it was when I ate there) and you’re feeling flaithulach, go for a bowl of broth on the side.
This is a lunch which could restore your faith in many things – the much-abused art of the sandwich, pork with proper flavour, humanity itself (if your visit follows 17 hours of flight and a chilly morning dodging showers blown up from the Willamette).
We discovered this when we hit Luc Lac a day or two before Christmas, our heads still somewhere over the mid-Atlantic, in need of sustenance.
Our knackered palettes rejoiced. The moist pork was mouth-melting, the part-rice flour bun the right side of light, the broth a restorative to rival Jameson’s finest. It was the Greatest Sandwich In the World.
Ok, I may be exaggerating. Just a little. I’ve had plenty of good sandwiches in recent times, and even a few good Vietnamese ones (not least at my father-in-law’s LA staple Golden Deli) – but none of the latter in Dublin.
It’s not for want of shoe leather. For the past couple of years my wife and I have sought out a banh mi whenever we’ve spotted a new Vietnamese place in our home city. Finding these eateries is easy because there’s so few of them – Vietnamese food hasn’t made the same inroads on the Irish palate as Chinese or Japanese.My favourite in Dublin, Pho Ta in Temple Bar, serves banh mi but not on a rice baguette. The situation is similar at Aobaba on Capel Street – the filing’s the familiar pork but the bun’s all too Irish. Walk up to Parnell Street’s Pho Viet and you’ll get a great pho ga (chicken noodle soup) but won’t find a banh mi on the menu.
A discreet ‘what’s up with the bread?’ enquiry to a staff member at one of these places yielded the answer that no bakery in Ireland makes baguettes using rice flour. Yet.
Given Dublin’s bread revolution this situation will surely change soon. After all, 4,600 miles is a little far to travel for a sandwich.
Unless you’ve tried Luc Lac’s grilled pork baguette.