The An Family is best known for their branches of Crustacean in Beverly Hills and San Francisco, but at the end of 2009, matriarch Helene and her daughters expanded beyond Vietnamese fine dining with a pair of more casual concepts, beginning with AnQi. Elizabeth An opened the sleek Euro-Asian bistro at South Coast Plaza before they looked north to Tiato.
AnQi’s Vietnamese Baguette “Banh Mi” is available with a choice of fillings, either chicken, beef or ham. We opted for ham. This isn’t a textbook sandwich. Then again, AnQi isn’t a textbook restaurant. After all, the dining room features a runway that frequently hosts sashaying models. Still, the Ham Banh Mi ($10) was a good lunchtime option at the plaza, which has long been Orange County’s epicenter of style. The banh mi arrived on crusty house-baked baguette that had plenty of give and was certainly no mouth-scraper. It came with pedestrian layers of ham, but the banh mi still coalesced thanks to the crunchy pickled carrots and onions, spicy jalapeno, cilantro leaves and judicious application of tangy garlic lime aioli.
We were kind of surprised to see the banh mi come with French fries. Guess it’s touches like that makes it a “Euro-Asian” bistro, and not a Vietnamese restaurant. The fries were actually very good, thick cut, crisp-crusted, golden and sprinkled with just the right amount of salt. It probably seems ridiculous to order a $10 banh mi when Little Saigon is only 20 minutes away, and it might be, but the banh mi was still above average despite the standard issue ham, and it was still reasonably priced compared to a lot of other South Coast Plaza dining options.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.