Bun Thit Nuong at Bon Mi (Eugene, OR)

It’s always nice to pull into a larger city on the road just to expand your food and entertainment options. Eugene is the largest city in Oregon after Portland, just barely edging out Salem for that distinction. Downtown Eugene has nice shops, restaurants and cultural amenities without the big city traffic and noise, likely reasons that it has been on several lists as one of the best places to live in the U.S. Tonight, we were looking forward to a Vietnamese dinner and movie. Within blocks of each other were what we were looking for: a Vietnamese-French restaurant (Bon Mi) and an art house cinema (Bijou Metro, where we saw “Frances Ha”).

The French menu consists of French-inspired sandwiches, though they appear on the surface to be kinds that you might get at any good sandwich restaurant. The Vietnamese menu is a bit more extensive with pho, bun and, as the restaurant’s name would suggest, banh mi. My wife and I had the same entrée in mind, bun thit nuong (☆☆☆) as an antidote to the long day of driving in warm weather.

It came in a large bowl with a generous amount of grilled pork, a nod perhaps to American appetites. The rice vermicelli, rather than the usual thin bun noodles, were thicker (banh canh) like Japanese udon, making it a more substantial noodle salad. Nuoc cham was served in a very small dish, making me wonder if it would be enough to dress the large salad. Rather than dipping, I prefer to toss the sauce into the bowl and mix everything up. Everything in this case was the noodles, pork, plenty of cilantro, green onions and do chua (shredded pickled carrots and radish). A fair amount of the last item compensated for the skimpy nuoc cham, imparting a sweeter, vinegary element. We had no complaints because the dish was very tasty, an intriguing variation with the savor of delicious pork and chew of thick noodles.

If we come back here again, we’ll have to give the pho and banh mi a shot.

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