Friday, July 08, 2005

The Perfect Lunch?

I first got hooked on "Banh Mi"--Vietnamese submarine sandwiches--when I came to Montreal as an undergraduate years and years ago now. I came across them not in "Chinatown," where the greatest concentration of Vietnamese shops and restaurants, and therefore Banh Mi shops, now stand, but on Ste-Catherine just to the north. I was walking down Ste-Catherine one winter's day around lunchtime when I saw a sign advertising sandwiches vietnamiennes, so I popped into this small fast food restaurant (long gone now) and tried one. Vietnamese sauteed vegetables, tofu, Japanese mayonnaise, hot peppers, cilantro, and a soy-based dressing served inside a mini-baguette--I found them irresistible right from the get-go, and although the area I was coming from (Northern Virginia) had loads of Vietnamese shops and restaurants, I'd never seen anything like them.

Cao Thang
Originally uploaded by michelle1975.

These days, my favorite Banh Mi shop is a tiny little place called Cao Thang located on the west side of St. Laurent between René-Lévesque and de la Gauchetière next to a jewelry shop. I started going there in 1999 when I returned to Montreal, and although I know a lot of other people that favor other Banh Mi specialists in the area, I've tried those other guys, and Cao Thang is still by far and away my favorite.

Thursday, Michelle met me for lunch and we rode our bikes down to Cao Thang to pick up a couple of Vietnamese Subs, some of their excellent spring rolls, and a couple of drinks for a picnic. Upon digging in, Michelle declared that she could have the same lunch "every day." I'm not sure if I'd go that far, but there is an argument to be made that this is the perfect lunch. It's delicious, it's satisfying, and it's so inexpensive. Years of inflation have only nudged the price of a 6" Vietnamese Sub up to $2.50. An order of Cao Thang's fresh spring rolls will set you back $3.50, but you get 3 spring rolls, and they're packed with vermicelli, bean sprouts, herbs, and 3 medium-sized shrimp each (!). Where else can you get 9 shrimp for $3.50?

Cao Thang's display coolers are filled with all kinds of tempting and colorful delicacies, including steamed BBQ pork buns, savory-filled feuilleté pastries, and a whole assortment of rice dishes, including the one whose name we like the best: Riz de Bonheur.

Recommended: Grilled Chicken, Grilled Pork, and Vegetarian Banh Mi.

Cao Thang, 1082 St-Laurent Blvd., 392-0097

note: apologies for any and all improper punctuation in this post. We're woefully ignorant of Vietnamese punctuation rules and practices, given how much we love Vietnamese food.--eds



michel said...

I work dangerously close to Cao Thang. A co-worker introduced me to the place a couple of years ago, and I think that first week I *did* eat there every day! The BBQ pork sub is also a great.

aj kinik said...

"Dangerously close"--that's a great way to put it. "Luckily," I work 5-10 minutes away by bike--close enough so that I can make there easily on my lunch break, but just far enough so that things don't get out of control. I'll give the BBQ pork sub a shot the next time around.

Anonymous said...

I got addicted last summer at Sous Marin Nha Trang(445 Jean Talon Owest) a terribley small take away near Park Metro.

aj kinik said...

hi anonymous,
we'll have to try sousmarin nha trang--haven't been there yet and we're on the hunt for a new banh mi specialist--stay tuned for a home banh mi recipe on AEB sometime soon

mathamore said...

banh-mi is a formidable confort food, delicious, inexpensive,the first one i try was the one at cao thang......what a revelation.....then i try others like the one across the street, not too bad, and then hoang oanh that is close to marché j-t. another good choice.7178 st-denis close to jean-talon