Once upon a time, there was an extremely underrated vietnamese sandwich shop called Xe May Sandwich Shop (96 Saint Marks Pl, New York, NY) in the East Village. Then one day, some jackass spray painted all over the front sign so people kept walking past it. During Ailsa the food blogger’s next visit to Xe May, she saw this, got very very angry and decided to write about how AMAZING their sandwiches are.
Let me start off by saying that I don’t usually get excited by sandwiches. A lot of places have these huge things that you have to shove in your mouth and then the sauce is dripping on your dress from the other end and vegetables are falling out of the sides…
Anyway, I digress.
Xe May is a little sandwich shop with seating space for seven to eight people in St. Marks Place. It takes a while for your order to come out because each dish is made fresh and from scratch. The banh mi-inspired sandwiches at Xe May are the perfect proportion of crunchy and juicy.
I ordered “The Pilot,” which is a lemongrass chicken sandwich for $6.50. Points for reasonable pricing! Too bad affordability isn’t a criteria for Chopped! The bread was toasted to a beautiful golden brown. It had crunch and enough chew to keep you going. The chicken had absorbed a lot of the lemongrass flavor and was packed tightly in the bun with carrots, cucumber and coriander. The compact nature of the sandwich means high Presentation points because it’s so easy to eat whether you’re sitting or standing. No dripping and you could get a little bit of everything in your mouth with a single bite. Also, you could choose the spice level: Medium, Spicy and Xtra Spicy. I chose Spicy because it included Sri Racha and Jalapeño. I was a little hesitant about adding Sri Racha since it can overwhelm a dish but instead, it augmented the acidity and helped swallow down each bite down.
The only manner in which the Taste let me down is the jalapeño. There were huge raw slices with the seeds and all! The intense heat from the jalapeño overwhelmed my palette and distracted from the wonderful flavor. I was hoping that it would be a pickled jalapeño but now that I think about it, I’m wondering if that would be sacrilegious to the rest of the fresh ingredients in the sandwich.
For that reason, I’m not judging too harshly on Creativity because the charm of this sandwich shop is its simplicity. They managed to make light, refreshing ingredients shine through something as universal as a sandwich!
I once heard that the best way to judge a chef is by going into her/his restaurant and ordering the simplest dish. In Xe May, they offer you the most seemingly uncomplicated dishes and masterfully showcase their talent in the kitchen.