A new restaurant in Springfield serves up banh mi: Vietnamese sandwiches filled with competing textures and a bounty of fresh flavors.
The original owners of BamBu have opened Rolls-N-Bowls, a new Vietnamese restaurant on West Sunshine. It sits in the spot that once housed Little Saigon and then Blue Saigon. We hope Rolls-N-Bowls lasts longer than those now-defunct Vietnamese eateries. And judging from two recent visits I took to the spot with my fiancé Eli Estes, we think it will.
We started our first meal with fresh spring rolls—the kind that aren’t fried and that come with peanut dipping sauce. The rolls were delicious, packed with shrimp, pork and veggies. And the dipping sauce was a smidge spicier than what we’ve had at other places in town. We loved it. Before we decided on our entrees, Eli ordered a taro flavored frozen boba tea, and I ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee (so sweet and strong!).
I had heard that Bowls-N-Rolls has banh mi (a Vietnamese sandwich) on the menu. Banh mi sandwiches start with a Vietnamese/French baguette that’s filled with barbecued pork, pickled carrots and radishes, fresh cucumber and jalapeño, paté and lots of cilantro. As far as I know, it’s the only spot in town to serve the dish, so I knew before I got there that I wanted to order it.
But, unfortunately, our server had to steer me in another direction. He said they had run out of bread and the new batch wasn’t finished cooking yet. Even though I didn’t get the dish I came for, I took the problem as a good sign: They bake the bread fresh. Yum!
I decided to get a bowl of pho soup with meatballs, brisket and slices of eye of round. It is delicious and jam-packed with that familiar umami taste that makes pho so addictive. The broth is rich but not heavy. I added all the herbs, lime wedges and jalapeños from the little plate of goodies for doctoring it up, and I added a handful of the sprouts. Then I dropped in a few squirts of spicy sriracha. Mmm… pho my way.
Eli ordered the barbecued pork and egg roll bun, which is a big bowl of cold vermicelli, picked radishes and carrots, lettuce, herbs, pork and a sliced fried egg roll. It comes with a little bowl of fish sauce—which Rolls-N-Bowls seasons with red pepper flakes—to pour on top. It was delightful.
Eli and I decided to pay the restaurant a visit the very next day, so we could try the banh mi. It was definitely worth the trip back. The sandwich is delicious, and the bread is perfect: soft and chewy inside with a flaky, crunchy crust. The sandwich isn’t very heavy on the pork, but I liked that because I adored the competing textures of the bread, meat, crunchy veggies and soft paté. Too much of any one ingredient would have thrown the texture battle off. This is a sandwich that’s full of fresh, fun flavors. I got it with a side of crispy sweet potato fries.
On this second visit, Eli tried a mi bowl, another soup (since we’d had pho last time). Eli’s mi bowl contained a pork broth with thin egg noodles, veggies, pork and wontons. Like pho, it comes with a plate of herbs, sprouts and jalapeños. I am a huge pho fan, so what I’m about to say is a pretty big deal: This soup is better than pho. No kidding. The broth is more flavorful, the texture of the egg noodles is a nice change of pace, and the meat-filled wontons are a fun addition (even though they are a little tough to tackle with slippery chopsticks).
1402 W. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-869-1488
Open Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–8:30 p.m. and Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
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