What do I get for being an early adopter? Disappointment. I read about Spice Kit supposedly opening last Monday, so I was so sad to come upon butcher-paper covered windows which hid a restaurant space not quite ready to make it’s public debut despite it being past its grand opening day. I was so bummed, because I was looking forward to picking up some sandwiches, ssams and buns for dinner. So it wasn’t until Vsiz mentioned that Spice Kit had finally opened did I even consider making my way over after work.
I ordered the Banh Mi with roast pork for $7.75 and paid the extra $0.75 for pate, because as anyone who knows Vietnamese sandwiches, it’s all about the pate. Ignoring the fact that you can normally buy Vietnamese sandwiches in the Tenderloin for $3.50 (and that is still expensive compared to Little Saigon in the OC), the quality and taste of the sandwiches were excellent. The bread was fresh and crunchy baguette. The pork was marinaded in a mix of lemongrass, cinnamon, star anise and maybe some other spices and braised in a way that the pork became infused with a distinct flavor while still staying pretty moist. The carrots and daikon were pickled just right, and along with the lemon aioli mayo, it added a uniquely different tang to the sandwich. The pate was very good what little they put in my sandwich… which ultimately is my biggest complaint. There wasn’t enough filling inside my sandwich! All the individual ingredients were great, and you could tell it was all high quality, but I just wanted more of everything. Now I’m not sure if it was because I had come so late in the day and they had run out of ingredients, but either which way, I couldn’t help but feel like I was paying a premium for Lee Sandwich-like Banh Mi, and that slightly irritated me.
The Grilled Pork Belly Bun was equally excellent and I had less complaints on the filling to bun ratio. Maybe it is because the pork belly has such a rich fattiness that you don’t need as much relative to the size of the bun. In addition to the pork, there is sliced cucumbers, chopped scallions and hoisin sauce. The bun is warm, soft and not too starchy so I didn’t feel compelled to toss half of it like I usually would. I really liked it, and at 2 buns for $5, it’s not too expensive either.
The lime-ade drink that I ordered was quite refreshing. It was tangy and citrusy without being sour. In fact, it was actually kind of sweet. It really helped to cut the fattiness of the ingredients.
Overall, I was pretty happy with the quality and taste of the food. Although the portions aren’t big, it is kind of typical when the ingredients are of such high quality. It’s also typically priced considering its location. Being in the depths of the Financial District, it really caters to more of a lunch time crowd of finance guys and lawyers so that is why they charge the prices that they do. However, I won’t complain too much, because thankfully, it stays open until 8:30pm which allows for enough time for me to stop by and pick up a quick and simple dinner on my way home from work. It is hard to find places like this in SOMA/Downtown, so every time I do find one, it’s a definite gem in spite of its price tag.
405 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
PAFO Ratings for Spice Kit:
Price 1½ stars
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars