Bánh mì is one of those sandwiches for which ratios are very important. At its best, a kind of alchemy happens — a sandwich that is greater than the sum of its parts. But when those ratios are off, when the magic doesn't occur, the sandwich actually becomes less than the sum of its parts.
At Phorage in Palms, the bánh mì's ratios are somehow off and the alchemy never happens. Perhaps its the bread, which doesn't have that soft-crackle contrast. Perhaps its the filling of thinly sliced pork, cucumbers, cilantro, carrots and jalapeño, which isn't quite moist enough and seems to miss the tang-spice-meaty interplay that makes bánh mì so irresistible.
Phorage opened in July in the former Chego space, in the corner of a strip mall on Overland Avenue. The chef is Perry Cheung, who spent time as the executive sous chef at San Francisco's Slanted Door and was also the chef at ROC Kitchen. The space has a sleek, minimalist look with a long, central table, a counter facing the wall on one side and tables on the other. You order and pay at a register to the right of the door and the food is delivered to the table.
See also: Now Open: Phorage in Palms
While the bánh mì was a little disappointing, the pho was more successful. The oxtail broth was deep and rich, with a hint of sweetness; oxtail meat fell off the bone in tender, fatty hunks.
The restaurant also serves thin-sliced rare beef pho, as well as a chicken version. There are broken rice dishes with pork, chicken and shrimp, and vermicelli with pork, chicken or tofu. There are also a couple of salads and spring rolls.
It's a pared-down, simple concept, and one that could work quite well in this part of town. I do hope they discover a way to inject some magic into the bánh mì — in the meantime I'll be sticking to the pho.
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