Thonglor's skate-inspired Vietnamese restaurant serves Californian-style banh mi.
Taking up prime real estate at Thonglor’s foodie-focused Commons community mall, this booth’s banh mi heads in a more creative New American direction. Instead of baguettes stuffed with the traditional cold cuts, the focus is on warm, stir-fried fillings. The duck version’s juicy, Sriracha-slathered meat won’t bring to mind Hanoi, but makes a decadent treat nonetheless. Round out your meal with a more traditional bowl of pho or round of crispy egg rolls.
Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi) are no longer the rarity they were not so long ago in Bangkok. For that we’re grateful. But covered in skateboarding and crust-punk stickers, this red and black stall at The Commons community mall does things a little differently. What they call “Californian-style” banh mi might well be described as “hipster food mashups,” though this food is not quite as gimmicky as next-door Soul Food 555’s khaosoy and somtam burgers. Instead of baguettes stuffed with the traditional cold cuts, the focus is on warm, stir-fried fillings.
Though our authenticity radar detects a problem, the duck banh mi (B280) is a spicy delight worth revisiting over and over. Some of the regular components are still there inside the light and crisp baguette—the pickled carrot and daikon, the fresh sprigs of coriander and the smear of pate—but the juicy, Sriracha-slathered duck meat is unlike anything you’ll find on the streets of Hanoi (or anywhere else in Bangkok, for that matter). The pork sausage version (B240) comes with a near identical flavor profile, only with the disarmingly rubbery texture of stir-fried moo-yor (pork sausage). We’d happily order two or three of these to go with a beer (available at Beer Cap on the same floor), but prices are a minor concern. Coming in at B240-280 per petite sandwich, Eastbound charges up to double what our other banh mi favorites charge (see: Banh Mi Crispy at W District). Remember, though, you’re paying for the privilege of being in Thonglor.
Beyond baguettes, the placemat menu lists rolls and noodles, none of which really scale the same heights. The crispy egg rolls (B160) pack ground pork, taro, cabbage and vermicelli noodles into satisfyingly crunchy, not-too-oily morsels. The beef pho (B200) features another of those fusion touches, swimming with at least two types of mushroom. Overall, our recent bowl was solid if not spectacular thanks to a slightly watery broth and lack of garnishes, but the thin slithers of meat were nonetheless flavorsome.
Nestled among the bakeries and coffee stands at the entrance to the mall, Eastbound’s bar seating can feel a little isolated from the communal night-time fun deeper inside. That’s if the place isn’t gatecrashed by DJs and hangers on from the Beam and Future Factory party scene, as on our last visit. Don’t go to Eastbound for an authentic Vietnamese meal—you have Vietnamese & More, Le Dalat or Saigon Recipe for that. Go there for a darn good sandwich.
This review took place in January 2017 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.