When Riga finally gets its first Vietnamese food place, it's in the shape of a small fast food joint, aimed solely at people who want a quick bite in the middle of a busy working day. Despite this, I'm still glad that it's here.
As the name suggests, Tavs Banh Mi focuses partly on the famous Vietnamese sandwiches called banh mi. These are a type of baguettes with various types of fillings and toppings. At its core, a banh mi isn't that different from any other baguette you've had, but it of course has the trademark Vietnamese flavor profile to make it stand out in the crowd. However, at this little joint on Ģertrūdes iela 9, right beside the Ģertrūdes church, you can also have spring rolls and salads as well as pho noodle soups and a few other main dishes. And worth mentioning is the prices: everything on the menu is between €1.50 and €5.
”the mild flavors and subtle nuances of tavs banh mi's food are a bit too elusive”
At first, I was quite disappointed, both because I was hoping for a more proper restaurant, and because I find the food less than overwhelming. I'm a vigorous advocate for strong flavors, so the mild flavors and subtle nuances of Tavs Banh Mi's food are a bit too elusive for my taste. You can always take matters into your own hands and add some Sriracha sauce, or ”cock sauce” as it's commonly called (no, this is not my inner 7-year-old trying to produce a giggle. That's what it's actually called, due to the dominant manufacturer of Sriracha sauce displaying an image of a rooster on the bottle), but this only helps with the fieriness, not with the timidity of the other ingredients.
However, Tavs Banh Mi already seems to have become a hugely popular lunch place amongst people working in the neighborhood – around lunch time the place is almost always packed, with just as many people standing by the counter, waiting for their take-away. The fact that it's closed on the weekends also adds to my guess that weekday working people is the target audience for this little Vietnamese sandwich shop.
So, why am I glad that it's here, after all? Is it eye-opening? Will it convert people into lovers of Vietnamese food? No. Is it a dirt cheap, decent place for lunchers who want something slightly different? Definitely. Tavs Banh Mi may have very modest ambitions, but so far this concept seems to have struck gold.
Ģertrūdes iela 9