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Paris Express brings a Little Saigon staple to Chula Vista

Finding pork belly bánh mì — and a colorful bean drink — at Vietnamese sandwich shop expansion

A crispy pork belly sandwich: bánh mì heo quay
A crispy pork belly sandwich: bánh mì heo quay
Video:

Paris Express three color dessert


At last, I stop avoiding the chè ba màu. I’ve been eyeballing this “three color dessert” for years, having encountered it in bánh mì shops all around town. Though I’ve flirted with the idea of trying it, I’ve never felt confident enough to make a move. Due to the beans.

Place

Banh Mi Paris Express

224 Broadway, Chula Vista

The three bright colors in question are green, red, and yellow, which sit one on top of another in a layered liquid solution, within a plastic cup ($4.75). The top layer seems innocent enough: strips of jelly, made green by pandan leaves, floating in a sweetened coconut milk. It’s like you might order at from a boba tea shop. But the center layer gets its brownish-red hue from kidney beans. And the denser yellow holding down the bottom? Mung beans. Not my usual dessert craving, but at the instruction of the pleasant lady behind this sandwich shop counter, I mix the layers together with a fat straw, and get to slurping.


Amid a swirl of liquid sweetness, the dessert ranges between chewy and gritty, and mushy when a whole bean pops through the straw. I’ll discover later that even the pandan jelly gets its chew from mung bean starch, the same stuff used to make glass noodles. I can see how it’s often described as refreshing, especially given that it developed in a place as hot and humid as Vietnam. But I don’t see it taking off in San Diego. Or here, in Chula Vista.


A simple bánh mì counter, but this one's in Chula Vista


That’s okay. I didn’t really drive to South Bay to try chè ba màu. I’m here because Paris Bakery is here. For years, the City Heights sandwich shop has been counted among the best bánh mì spots in the stretch of neighborhood dubbed Little Saigon, which makes it one of the tops in the county. And this year. Paris Bakery started expanding. In January, it launched a bánh mì and smoothies shop, Paris Sandwiches, in Mira Mesa. Then, in early October, it brought its beloved sandwiches south of the 54, to Broadway and E Street.

Sponsored
Sponsored


Paris Bakery's standard, cold cuts Bánh Mì Đặc Biệt, made at its new Chula Vista location, Paris Express


The Chula Vista shop is called Bánh Mì Paris Express, but it’s home to the same list of 7- to 8-dollar sandwiches found at Paris Bakery, and to the same sort of refrigerator-sized oven where it bakes fresh baguettes daily. Piled onto those baguettes are all the traditional bánh mì toppings: pickled daikon and carrots, sliced jalapeños, a bunch of cilantro, a smear of mayo, and a host of proteins that include cold cuts and pâté, grilled pork, Vietnamese sausage, or sardines. There’s even a vegetarian sandwich that employs a mix of tofu and sesame glass noodles ($7.49).


A vegetarian bánh mì, featuring tofu and glass noodles


That’s probably the only one I’m lukewarm about, especially after trying a newer entry to the menu: bánh mì heo quay, made with crispy pork belly ($10.99).


To clarify, that’s different from the braised pork belly bánh mì, ba chỉ ($7.99), previously served at the original shop. This one fulfills the bánh mì dream, piling succulent chunks of skin-on, belly meat onto the sandwich. The skin could have been crispier on my order, but only if I’m nitpicking. Otherwise, it fulfills its promise as a more indulgent take on one of San Diego’s better sandwiches. Enough so to suddenly make downtown Chula Vista a bánh mì destination.

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A crispy pork belly sandwich: bánh mì heo quay
A crispy pork belly sandwich: bánh mì heo quay
Video:

Paris Express three color dessert


At last, I stop avoiding the chè ba màu. I’ve been eyeballing this “three color dessert” for years, having encountered it in bánh mì shops all around town. Though I’ve flirted with the idea of trying it, I’ve never felt confident enough to make a move. Due to the beans.

Place

Banh Mi Paris Express

224 Broadway, Chula Vista

The three bright colors in question are green, red, and yellow, which sit one on top of another in a layered liquid solution, within a plastic cup ($4.75). The top layer seems innocent enough: strips of jelly, made green by pandan leaves, floating in a sweetened coconut milk. It’s like you might order at from a boba tea shop. But the center layer gets its brownish-red hue from kidney beans. And the denser yellow holding down the bottom? Mung beans. Not my usual dessert craving, but at the instruction of the pleasant lady behind this sandwich shop counter, I mix the layers together with a fat straw, and get to slurping.


Amid a swirl of liquid sweetness, the dessert ranges between chewy and gritty, and mushy when a whole bean pops through the straw. I’ll discover later that even the pandan jelly gets its chew from mung bean starch, the same stuff used to make glass noodles. I can see how it’s often described as refreshing, especially given that it developed in a place as hot and humid as Vietnam. But I don’t see it taking off in San Diego. Or here, in Chula Vista.


A simple bánh mì counter, but this one's in Chula Vista


That’s okay. I didn’t really drive to South Bay to try chè ba màu. I’m here because Paris Bakery is here. For years, the City Heights sandwich shop has been counted among the best bánh mì spots in the stretch of neighborhood dubbed Little Saigon, which makes it one of the tops in the county. And this year. Paris Bakery started expanding. In January, it launched a bánh mì and smoothies shop, Paris Sandwiches, in Mira Mesa. Then, in early October, it brought its beloved sandwiches south of the 54, to Broadway and E Street.

Sponsored
Sponsored


Paris Bakery's standard, cold cuts Bánh Mì Đặc Biệt, made at its new Chula Vista location, Paris Express


The Chula Vista shop is called Bánh Mì Paris Express, but it’s home to the same list of 7- to 8-dollar sandwiches found at Paris Bakery, and to the same sort of refrigerator-sized oven where it bakes fresh baguettes daily. Piled onto those baguettes are all the traditional bánh mì toppings: pickled daikon and carrots, sliced jalapeños, a bunch of cilantro, a smear of mayo, and a host of proteins that include cold cuts and pâté, grilled pork, Vietnamese sausage, or sardines. There’s even a vegetarian sandwich that employs a mix of tofu and sesame glass noodles ($7.49).


A vegetarian bánh mì, featuring tofu and glass noodles


That’s probably the only one I’m lukewarm about, especially after trying a newer entry to the menu: bánh mì heo quay, made with crispy pork belly ($10.99).


To clarify, that’s different from the braised pork belly bánh mì, ba chỉ ($7.99), previously served at the original shop. This one fulfills the bánh mì dream, piling succulent chunks of skin-on, belly meat onto the sandwich. The skin could have been crispier on my order, but only if I’m nitpicking. Otherwise, it fulfills its promise as a more indulgent take on one of San Diego’s better sandwiches. Enough so to suddenly make downtown Chula Vista a bánh mì destination.

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