Gimmick or Great? The Bahn Milano

Today’s Brooklyn food artisans walk such a fine line between revelatory and ridiculous that it can often be difficult to determine whether their latest creations will be gimmicky or great. Pastrami pretzel cheeseburger? Gimmick. Foie gras donut? Great. Babyccinos? Gimmick. Chocolate whiskey? Great.

See–any of those things could have been written off as gimmicks, but sometimes they’re actually delicious. Which is why I find myself absolutely having to try every new Brooklyn foodstuff that appears to straddle the gimmick/great line, even if I fully expect it to fall on the gimmick end of the spectrum. I just have to know.

Most recent candidate: the “bahn mi{lano}” sandwich at Williamsburg’s new gastropub-y spot The Saint Austere–yes, this menu item actually uses brackets to make sure you get the joke. The gimmick here is simple: combine two current food crazes–Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches and homey, rustic Italian fare–by making a bahn mi with high-end, Italian ingredients. I was half-prepared to hate this sandwich just for being so perfectly cutesy and on-trend, but I still couldn’t help myself from ordering it. I had to know.

And the verdict? Great. Somehow it came out of the kitchen more delicious than any Vietnamese or Italian sandwich I’ve eaten in recent memory. A crispy Sullivan Street Bakery baguette is layered with housemade testa (a rich Italian head cheese made from leftover pig parts), mortadella and broccoli rabe. Shredded carrots and cucumber provide the traditional bahn mi crunch, and a spicy chili paste brings the heat. But the best part is that before assemblage, the inside of the bread is grilled until charred, bringing a deep, smokey flavor to every bite.

The bahn mi{lano}. Wanted to hate it. Couldn’t.

The Saint Austere, by the way, looks to have high potential for drinks (German and Eastern European beers on tap), fusion-y small bites (pork belly croquetas), and fuller meals (a nightly $30 chef’s tasting menu).