Yum! Brands will debut Banh Shop, its fast-casual banh mi sandwich concept, in Dallas, with an opening date set for September 12. The shop is located at 5629 SMU Blvd., not far from Southern Methodist University. A second location will open at DFW International Airport later in September.
The concept reflects a collaboration between Yum! Brands' VP Christophe Poirier; Dallas-based consultant Mark Brezinski; and Dallas restaurateurs Braden and Yasmin Wages, owners of Malai Kitchen, the Asian restaurant in West Village.
At a press preview event, Poirier said that he observed a growing interest in Southeast Asian cuisine. "We saw an opportunity to design a unique fast-casual concept that emulates Saigon street food, with a focus on the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich," he said.
Brezinski, who most recently served as consultant at the Trinity Groves development in West Dallas, is co-founder of brands such as Bengal Coast and Pei Wei, giving him expertise in translating Asian cuisine to a wider audience. "Banh Shop is our way of expressing the abundance of bold flavors of Vietnam and parts of Southeast Asia with a tightly focused menu," he said.
The team chose Dallas as the city in which to debut the concept because of the players involved, and because Poirier works out of the Plano office.
Braden and Yasmin Wages have been fusing Thai and Vietnamese flavors at Malai Kitchen since they opened in 2011, and have taken frequent trips to Vietnam to absorb authentic flavors.
Conceived as an upscale Southeast Asian street stall market, Banh Shop spotlights a number of options of banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich on a baguette with cilantro, Thai basil, pickled carrot and daikon, ribbon-cut cucumber, and aioli. Banh mi fillings include steak, pork meatball, chicken and tofu. Prices are $5.95 to $6.95.
Beyond the banh mi, there's a selection of more Americanized sandwiches: the American with ham, salami and mortadella; steak and egg; and "breakfast all day" with eggs, pork and ham.
For its baguettes, a key component of the banh mi sandwich, the team went with Dallas-based Village Baking Co., with whom they developed an exclusive recipe that combines both rice and wheat flours to achieve the desirable texture of crisp yet substantive.
Banh Shop also features Southeast Asian salads, soups and wok-fired bowls, including a spicy one called Banh Fire served over white rice. The structure of the menu resembles that of Velvet Taco, the taco concept from Front Burner Restaurants, on which Brezinski also consulted; there's even an Asian version of Velvet Taco's elotes, a side dish of corn in coconut milk spiked with fiery chiles.
The restaurant occupies a former garage and has been given a minimalist renovation, with original cement floors, community-table benches and a color palette that uses lime green as an accent. Service style is fast-fast-casual, with a queue whose speed is calibrated so that orders are ready by the time the customer gets to the end of the line.