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Restaurants

Banh Mi Ba Le

Posted by Dawn Becker / Reviewed on May 8, 2010 / review policy

Banh Mi Ba LeThe first time I walk into Banh Mi Ba Le on Dundas Street just west of Spadina Avenue, there's a strange sound similar to skates swooshing through ice on a rink. I realize it's coming from the two servers stooped behind the counter. The noise? Vigorous carrot and daikon radish grating that later gets lightly pickled. These become fresh toppings on the banh mi, a Vietnamese sub sandwich consisting of a variety of meat or vegetarian fillings on a French-style baguette dressed with butter, mayonnaise, cilantro, a soy-based sauce and optional hot sauce.

Banh Mi Ba LeThe doors at Ba Le seem to be revolving. One customer after the next pops in, orders their choice of banh mi, places a quarter and a toonie on the counter and just as quickly walks out with sub in hand. For $2.25 for any choice of filling listed on the banh mi menu board, Ba Le is a great deal for a satisfying sandwich lunch.

Banh Mi Ba LeThe shredded chicken (top photo) is light, savoury and well-moistened by the dressing and optional hot sauce. The cilantro and cucumber slices along with pickled toppings add a bright hit to the sub. The tofu version, shown above, is a favourite using large fried tofu squares with or without tomato.

Banh Mi Ba LeThe Vietnamese menu has three additional items that don't appear on the English menu. Pha Lau (#2) translates to intestines and even the servers don't want to recommend it, steering customers to the ever popular Cold Cut option which includes a mix of deli meats and a better deal they say. Bi (#9) is shredded pork and Bate Cha (#10) is a type of pork liver paté, both of them non-offensive which leaves me wondering why it's not on the English menu since the paté already makes it into the Cold Cut option.

Banh Mi Ba LeTo me, the real find at Ba Le is the hot menu. The hot menu isn't prominent, located off by the side counter, and very easy to miss. It's worth the time it takes to enjoy a bowl of noodles if you don't mind eating at the makeshift dining/waiting area. The hot menu items are also available for take-out if time is short but these are dishes best eaten on the spot while piping hot.

Banh Mi Ba LeItems range from the economically-priced Chicken with Lemon Grass or Ginger Noodle Soup ($3.00) to the creamy Curry Vermicelli Soup ($5.00), shown above, which includes four bone-in chunks of tender skin-on chicken and medium spaghetti-sized rice noodles bathing in curry soup. Sprouts, basil and a bird's eye chilli are offered on the side which is stirred into the creamy soup.

Banh Mi Ba LeThe Bun Rieu ($5.00) uses the fine rice vermicelli that's closer to angel hair pasta in size. This is a highly fragrant soup of crab meat and egg with large pieces of fried tofu. The crab and egg make a curd-like topping and has a heady, fish market smell to it. The lime wedges and shredded cabbage, basil and lettuces get added in to the soup and tone down that initial fishy waft and when combined turns this into a luscious soup. Finally there is one hand-written Special added to the hot menu which is the Bun Ca Nuoc Leo, a type of vermicelli fish soup ($6.00).

Banh Mi Ba LeAn assortment of prepared take-away items are also available at the counter such as these Rice Paper Salad Rolls with Shrimp and a slice of deli meat. For $3.25, these rolls are fine, but compared to the well-priced subs or hot noodle dishes, there are better choices. Eating at Ba Le is a win-win scenario for your taste buds and your pocket book.

Banh Mi Ba LeHours:
Monday to Wednesday - 9:30AM to 7:00PM
Thursday - 8:30AM to 7:00P
Friday to Sunday - 9:00AM to 7:00 PM

Discussion

23 Comments

Lila / May 8, 2010 at 06:22 pm
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Remember when the Vietnamese subs were only $1?

Anyway, thanks for this - another place to check out for a quick lunch :)
Mimi / May 8, 2010 at 09:01 pm
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Anybody knows why the Vietnamese menu has 10 items on it while the English one only has 8?

Some secret specialties reserved for the Vietnamese-speaking customers? :D
pong replying to a comment from Mimi / May 8, 2010 at 11:55 pm
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Have you tried reading the article, Mimi?
food addict / May 9, 2010 at 09:24 am
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Also, another reason to why there are only 8 items on the English menu is that the person who wrote the menu does not know how to translate them in English. I've tried them all and they are actually pretty good. If you are into authentic cuisine, give them a try.
Richard / May 9, 2010 at 02:39 pm
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great spot i always have the spicey pork!

tastey sandwich...great spot for a quicky
Richard S / May 9, 2010 at 10:32 pm
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Is the place really new? I can't find it on DineSafe.

Kudos for the link to the review being on the main page, though :)
Al / May 10, 2010 at 08:44 am
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I've been looking for a long time for a viet sub place in Toronto since I discovered one in Calgary. I can't wait to try this.

AV / May 10, 2010 at 08:47 am
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Any chance you could include an actual street number with your review? "on Dundas Street just west of Spadina Avenue" isn't exactly precise
Zube / May 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm
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AV: The address and phone number are underneath the Google map.
Neil / May 10, 2010 at 02:16 pm
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I just went there...so delicious, clean, friendly, fast...and wow $2.25??! Perfect.
Neil / May 10, 2010 at 10:36 pm
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This place was shut down not long ago for rodent issues. I'm not naive enough to think it isn't a problem everywhere in Chinatown, but this place was in violation.

Also, the banh mi shops north of Dundas on Spadina (west side) are both better than this shop in my opinion.
Japhet / May 11, 2010 at 01:35 am
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You get better banh mi in East Chinatown and they're cheaper too. Hell, Ginger does 'em better.
scott / May 18, 2010 at 04:34 pm
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sweet! going to try this place out. have always walked by but been like "meh. another bahn mi shop."
gtafoodie replying to a comment from Mimi / May 27, 2010 at 10:43 pm
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My guess as to the difference in the 2 menus is that they didn't think the general public would enjoy eating some of the items. Number 2 is actually offal, tripe, stomach, intestines and such. Number 9 also happens to be shredded pork and pig skin. Would that sound appetizing to the general public?
Sam / June 2, 2010 at 08:26 pm
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Went in today, experienced bad service. I was very rudely spoken to. Will I go back? Probably not. There are always other places.
Jones / January 4, 2011 at 09:44 pm
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Went there today. Great Deal!!! Awesome taste
Giang / January 31, 2011 at 12:22 pm
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Hi,
Those items that only appears in the Vietnamese menu because they are very local. We don't think it is fair for the other to buy them because they would not enjoy them anyway. If anyone is curious enough of course you are welcome to try.
Thanks
P.S I used to work there when I first came to Canada. The owner is a very nice lady.
Kj
Giang replying to a comment from Sam / January 31, 2011 at 12:51 pm
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Hi Sam,
I'm very sorry to hear that you had a bad experience there. The staff who served you may have had a very bad day. I'm sure if the owner know about this she would correct her staff. Ms. Trang ( I forgot her French name) is a very nice lady and she would always deliver an excellent service.
Hope this help
Kao / March 31, 2011 at 10:52 pm
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It's not just some items in the Vietnamese language not showing up on the English menu, but the tofu and tofu in tomato are not on the Vietnamese menu. We just don't do tofu banh mi.
C4bl3Fl4m3 / May 18, 2011 at 03:38 pm
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I'm eating there right now and I have to admit, I'm very disappointed in the curry soup. Mine looked the same as yours but instead of creamy and flavorful I've found it to be watery and tasteless. The only way I know there's spices in it is from the color and the heat in my mouth afterward. I'm having to force myself to eat it because I'm hungry. The chicken in the soup, however, is quite flavorful.

I'm not saying don't come here, but steer clear of the bun cari.
WC / December 20, 2011 at 10:34 am
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The real difference at this place is the bread. It's a skinnier and longer baguette rather than the wider and shorter buns at most other places. It's a nice alternative.

Most everything here is good, but I wouldn't recommend the sardine option. It's too dry, probably just came out of a can.
mikebg / July 22, 2012 at 05:07 pm
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I went in for banh mi here once. Honestly, I found it inferior to the sandwiches at Banh Mi Nguyen Huong and Banh Mi & Che Cali just around the corner; plus, it's slightly more expensive than either of those two places, hence why I haven't been back since. (Or, you could even go down to Banh Mi Boys at Queen Street) I didn't know this place had hot food, though. I'm curious now; however, C4bl3Fl4m3's comment does not inspire confidence. But the bun rieu definitely looks good, and I'd be curious to try that (haven't seen any complaints about it!).
ginger / February 2, 2014 at 10:47 am
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I am in love with this place. Found it by accident after swearing off of the Spadina options which have become dismal recently. How did I not know this place existed for 12+ years??! It is DEFINITELY the superior Banh Mi in west-end Chinatown. My first choice is the Lemongrass Tofu, or the Tomato Tofu. A fresh healthy sprig of coriander, freshly cut chillies, and great seasonings. Always let them toast your sandwich ... it adds a slight crispness which I highly recommend. Fresh, cheap, friendly service, and always satisfying ... clear winner here!

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