When I entered An Choi I was pleasantly surprised. The interior is dark with distressed walls, the chairs are small stools, the way I remember some of the outdoor eateries in Vietnam being. The tables each have a bottle of sriracha on them. It wasn’t until I got the menu that I realized what I had stumbled into — not authentic Vietnamese, but a restaurant playing at being Vietnamese.
Consider the spring rolls, pictured above ($5.50). They have the proper outer shell, something that is sometimes lacking at other American Vietnamese restaurants. But one bite let me know that these were far from authentic — rather than being super-crispy they were almost soft. They were also served with one solitary piece of lettuce in which to wrap them. On top of that my server, who was thoughtful enough to ask if I wanted vegan mayo on my sandwich after realizing I ordered all vegetarian food, brought me a bowl of fish sauce in which to dip them. Hmm…
And then there’s the portobello banh mi, a shocking $7.50 (shocking is definitely the right word, and it’s still not the priciest banh mi on the menu). I ordered it while rationalizing that if it’s the best banh mi ever than it would be worth it. What arrived was the worst banh mi I’ve ever eaten. The bread was room temperature, robbing the sandwich of that nice interplay of hot and cold. The mushrooms were not seasoned well, and the whole thing wasn’t nearly spicy enough. A total failure.
I left quite disappointed in An Choi. There are so many more Vietnamese restaurants in NYC that I can get much better food elsewhere, cheaper. At least I can cross An Choi off of my list.
An Choi — 85 Orchard St