Banh Shop, the new casual Vietnamese concept from Yum! Brands, debuts Friday in Dallas

Back in May, EscapeHatch revealed that Yum! Brands, the folks behind a few concepts you’ve no doubt heard about, were stealthily launching a new concept called Banh Shop.  The new fast casual Vietnamese restaurant would be part of Yum’s push into new expansion vehicles. (Remember SuperChix?) Well, it’s time for the show: Bahn Shop will debut this Friday, September 12.

The flavors will seem familiar to Uptowners, given that Banh Shop’s menu was created by Braden and Yasmin Wages of Malai Kitchen and restaurant developer Mark Brezinski, who most recently helped create Trinity Groves, Velvet Taco and the short-lived Bengal Coast.

Expect lots of from-scratch cooking, with plenty of vegetables –“healthy goodies,” as Braden Wages calls them– plus Vietnamese-style street food that balances salty, sweet, spicy and tangy.

Christophe Poirier,  the VP of emerging brands for Yum, spent two years eating his way through Asia. He told me he thinks the key to a successful banh mi is the baguette bread. Since Poirier is French, he chose well, leaning on Village Baking Company to custom bake the baguettes.

“Dallas is a hot city to launch new concepts,” Poirier told me at a preview of Banh Shop yesterday. “The standards and expectations of foodies here are very high, so if you can succeed here, that’s a good test. When we surveyed the national conversation on the Internet about banh mi, about 8% of the commenters lived in Dallas, so we knew if we did it right, we’d be successful here.”

Why Vietnamese street food?

“The concept started with the banh mi sandwich and grew from there,” said Braden Wages. “If Yasmin and I were trapped on a desert island and could only eat one thing,  it would be a banh mi.”

The Wages developed the recipes but say there isn’t much overlap between their Malai Kitchen and Banh Shop. “‘Same, same, but different,’ as the street vendors in Vietnam say.”

“The meats and sauces are different from what we do at Malai but there’s definitely a similar style, with pickled cucumbers, carrots and daikon. The  sauces are very different.”

Yasmin says the banh mi, for example, is “similar to what you know a banh mi to be but it’s uniquely different. It’s a banh mi Inspired by our travels and by Vietnamese tradition.”

“The kitchen manager speaks fluent Vietnamese,”  added Brezinsky, “and when he says it’s good, that’s a pretty good gauge for us.”  Guess what? He says it’s good.

A second Banh Shop will open at DFW International Airport’s Terminal D in a few weeks, but no other locations are in the works.

Check out Banh Shop on Friday. Here’s a sampling of the menu:

  • Grilled Steak Banh Mi Sandwich – marinated sirloin steak, sliced and char-grilled with honey-caramel glaze; with cucumber-cilantro aioli.
  • Grilled Pork Meatball Banh Mi Sandwich – minced pork marinated with black pepper, Vietnamese caramel glaze and scallions; with cucumber-cilantro aioli.
  • Coconut Chicken Breast Banh Mi Sandwich – sliced chicken breast marinated in chili-coconut and char-grilled; with cucumber-cilantro aioli.
  • “Banh Fire” Wok’d Bowl – lively stir-fry of carrots, bean sprouts, red onion, scallion and cilantro tossed in a spicy tamarind sauce and topped with peanuts, “Banh Fire” jalapeño pesto and a dollop of cooling sour cream; served over white rice; choice of protein.
  • Traditional Vietnamese Noodle Salad (Bun) – vermicelli rice noodles, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, basil, mint, cilantro, peanuts, red onion and bean sprouts tossed in a Vietnamese vinaigrette (nuoc mam); add any char-grilled protein.
  • Saigon “Street Stall” Corn Cup – warm cup of sweet corn kernels, Saigon sauce (coconut milk, butter, nuoc mam), red pepper, scallion and crumbled white cheese.

5629 SMU Boulevard (just east of the DART tracks).