One more hyper-branded, white-walled lifestyle-blogger wet dream in Mitte? Babanbè’s got it all: Ipad cash register, dangling light bulbs, stools at communal wooden tables, liberal use of English in the menu and a hard-to-say name (just try it!).
Around a table outside, a gang of beery young guys in polo shirts and aviator glasses discuss their start-up. In short, the new banh mi place across the street from C/O Berlin on Tucholskystraße feels like yuppie lunch heaven – some light-years away from the “infamous Saigon sub” announced on the menu. Here you’ll find some addictive, posh fast food, the way well-done banh mi often are.
The three Germans behind the place have turned the Viet-baguette into global fusion food with stuffings like “portobello mushrooms glazed in honey and soya, chilli-lime mayo and homemade BBQ sauce”. Wowzer! Then there’s tofu, chicken, meatballs and wasabi roast beef, all crammed into oven-fresh squishy-crispy snow-white baguettes with sweet-sour marinated carrots, daikon radish, cucumber, spring onions and the ever-present coriander.
After two visits, we can safely say you should stay away from the “Uncle Anh’s Tuna” sandwich. At €6.25 for some bog-standard canned tuna salad in a bun, we felt a little ripped off.
Instead, pig out on the awesomely fibrous BBQ pulled pork: shredded marinated hog shoulder with chilli-lime mayo and succulent BBQ sauce. Order it extra spicy for a bombastic taste explosion. Vegetarians best go for that portobello sub (€5.95); it’s got a nice sweet touch. Big eaters might complain that the sandwiches are a little on the small side, and since they’re addictive you might be craving for seconds.
The best surprise at Babanbè was the somehow under-advertised salads. In a slightly confusing mix ‘n’ match system, you can choose from three sizes (basic, three toppings, €4.45; medium, six toppings, €5.95; large, nine toppings: €7.45) and from the daily variety of fresh veg and fruit displayed behind the counter. You can also add any of the aforementioned sandwich fillings for a fusion super-salad that will keep you going all day. The three dressings on offer are downright sexy: Umami, pear vinaigrette and Asian Caesar. Our vote goes to Umami: a low-key blend of oil, vinegar, wasabi, ginger and soya. Ask for bread (you do have to ask though) and dip it in the leftover dressing!
Drink-wise, we recommend their fresh ‘n’ zesty ginger lemonade or a lemongrass iced tea (both €2.50). Don’t be afraid to ask for tap water – they gave us a glass without flinching.
While not everything here is as heavenly as that first impression, we’ll be back – for another salad and maybe a noodle soup. Plus the staff is extremely friendly. For dessert, skip the overpriced macarons and head for the new Sarah Wiener Bäckerei a few metres down the street.