The banh mi is nothing new. If anything, it has infiltrated the food scene, especially with the business lunch crowd in the Fidi, Tenderloin, and SOMA. Only problem is, the lunch spots from which they emerge tend to be hole-in-the wall, mom-and-pop joints, which... are great and all, but if you are a self-proclaimed germ-aphobe, this may cause you all sorts of uneasiness over a meal that was prepared for you somewhere in the dark recesses.... I apologize if by saying that I've caused any worries...
Problem solved. Welcome Spice Kit, a relatively newly opened Asian street food-inspired quickie eatery, located in a prime business lunch locale- the Orrick building on 1st and Howard, in SOMA. This is the polar opposite of the aforementioned lunch counters. It is clean, bright, spacious (boasts sky high ceilings) and best of all.... plenty of seating!
How to describe the menu.... think Chipotle meets Asian street food (the kind that fits neatly in your hand). Organic, natural meats from happy animals, fresh herbs, spices, and veggies, prepared in an open kitchen.
Step 1: Pick your meat (or tofu). We tried the five spice chicken (with homemade pate!), kalbi-style beef shortribs, and roast pork.
Step 2: Pick your vehicle-of-choice: crusty and soft banh mi filled with pickled carrots, cukes jalapenos and cilantro, ssam rice paper wrap, or a mixed greens salad with jicama, radish, mango and peanuts. ($7-$8, with additional $0.75 for pate)
Step 3: Try a side: crispy, lightly fried lotus chips. Yes, that's right, lotus! ($1.50)
Step 4: Vietnamese iced coffee to wash everything down.
Step 5: Most important of all: DO NOT miss out on the steamed pork bun! A thick slice of delicious marinated pork belly, in a traditional steamed pocket bread. ($2.95 each)
Here is the added bonus. You get to tell your friends and coworkers that you ate food cooked by a chef who trained under Thomas Keller. The founder of Spice Kit, Will Pacio, a grad of the French Culinary Institute, worked at both per se and the French Laundry.
What a sweet (spicy and savory) deal.
Ambiance: Modern design, clean lines, wide counters, and open kitchen. High ceilings and large windows that let in plenty of light. The weekdays draws in the nearby business folk breaking for a healthy, power lunch. Lighter traffic on Saturdays.
Hours: M-F 10:30am - 8:00pm, Sat 10:30am - 3:00pm, Sun Closed
405 Howard Street
(bw First and Fremont)