Quick, Casual Bites With Vietnamese Flavor At BONMi
Despite many advances on the culinary front in recent years, the Upper West Side, packed as it is with people needing good food at decent prices (aka everyone), will always welcome a new quick-bites spot, especially near Lincoln Center. Enter BONMi, a healthy(ish), counter-service, "Vietnamese-inspired" restaurant right across 62nd Street from Damrosch Park. Located as it is at the street level of the Fordham University building, BONMi sees a steady stream of students during the school year, and local families are clearly enjoying the low prices and (mostly) kid-friendly dishes. But what I'm most excited about is having another option for grabbing some dinner before a (casual) show at Lincoln Center (the Out of Doors festival is coming soon), or a movie at either the Elinor Bunin, Walter Reade, or Lincoln Plaza theaters.
What To Eat At BONMi
I field tested a couple of BONMi offerings before a recent Midsummer Night Swing performance / dance party (it was the Jody Watley and Shalamar show, and it was fabulous in every 1970s-disco way) and the two biggest takeaways from dinner were 1) the food is fine, especially when sauced-up and, 2) it does indeed picnic well. The BONMi menu is one of those choose-your-own-adventure affairs, so you start with a "base" (baguette, grains, noodles, greens), pick a protein (chicken, pork, beef, tofu), and a sauce (from red curry to lemongrass to BBQ), and then get it topped off with such familiar Vietnamese-sandwich add-ons as cilantro, chopped pickled carrots, and cucumbers. You can play it safe; you can get a little wild.
Note: I said a LITTLE wild… even the "spiciest" of combos isn't terribly spicy.
For one of my entrees I had the cold rice vermicelli noodles with Nuoc Cham (they ask if you want this traditional Vietnamese fish sauce and of course you should say yes); the BONMi chicken, which was pretty flavorless, and thus not offensive but also not really noticeable; and the red curry sauce. It was all ok, the noodles had some bite to them and they weren't at all gummy, and the carrots and cilantro, et al, were bright and fresh. For $9, it was a satisfying light summer supper. But I also wanted to try their Bahn Mi-style sandwiches, which don't really resemble a Bahn Mi at all, other than there's some bread involved, and those toppings. I had the "18-hour Beef", which could have used some more kick, with the "5-spice Sauce" which, honestly I don't really remember much about. Basically: you wouldn't go out of your way to eat here (it has a certain midtown-lunch vibe to it, though with teenage chalkiti all over the place), but the food's all fresh and prepared with care, and it's a nice option to have in the neighborhood.
Where To Find BONMi
BONMi is located at 150 West 62nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, and is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., on Saturday from 12:00 noon to 9:00 p.m., and on Sunday from noon until 8:00.