Banh mis already represent a melding of cultures — baguettes and charcuteries from colonial France; pickled vegetables, herbs and chilies from Vietnam.
The Vietnamese Dip at Hello Banh Mi in Kirkland throws World War I-era Los Angeles into the mix, taking a banh mi and swirling it up with a French dip.
Piled into a footlong baguette are thin-sliced steak, seared on a flat-top, thin-sliced red onions, jalapeño, mayo and cilantro. The sandwich ($9.50) comes with a cup of pho-flavored beef broth, fragrant with ginger and anise.
Take a bite and dip, take a bite and dip. If you happen to run out of meat with a bite or two of bread still left, not to worry, just dip again.
The restaurant, newly opened in a Kirkland strip mall next to the Sno-King Ice Arena, is the second location of a family-owned enterprise, following the original in Federal Way. The restaurant’s interior, done up in happy yellows and chartreuse, is as cheerful as its name.
Other banh mis on the Hello Banh Mi menu (there are 14 total) come in either six-inch ($6.25) or footlong ($7.25). The combo ham banh mi has three types of meat — ham, pork roll and headcheese. The barbecue pork belly comes with big, meaty, fatty chunks of meat, rimmed red like char siu.
The baguettes are warm, soft in the middle with crackly crusts, the pickled vegetables are cold. Comme il faut, as the French would say.
Hello Banh Mi: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily; 14304 124th Ave. N.E., Kirkland; 425-298-0476
Here are a couple good options spread across the strip malls of Kirkland.
Rush In Alaskan Dumplings
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; 13501 100th Ave. N.E., Kirkland; 425-821-5446
If you like dumplings and you like puns, well, what more could you want than Rush In Alaskan Dumplings?
They serve Russian dumplings, pelmeni, with a whole matrix of fillings and toppings available. Dumplings come filled with beef, chicken, beef and pork, potato and cheese, or potato and mushrooms.
Beef-and-pork pelmeni are little ear-shaped pouches ($11 for 12 dumplings, $16 for 18), with fillings as salty-savory as sausage. The “classic” topping features melted butter, vinegar, curry powder, a squirt of sriracha, cilantro, a dollop of sour cream and a slice of rye bread to mop everything up.
There is a lot going on. But the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Push everything around a little bit. Let the butter meet the curry and the sour cream meet the hot sauce. “The juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better,” Huckleberry Finn said.
Dumpling shapes vary by filling. Potato-and-mushroom pelmeni are bigger than their meat cousins and are crescent-shaped. They don’t taste much like mushroom, but the potato is warm, soft and flaky.
The “sweet and spicy” sauce is an amalgam of vinegar, honey, white miso and sriracha. A delicate dish, this is not. It tastes turbocharged, mouth puckering, in a pleasant way.
The shop, which opened in May, is takeout only.
10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily; 11613 124th Ave. N.E., Kirkland; 425-820-8002; jasminekitchenwa.com
Open since 2016, Jasmine Kitchen serves the classics of a gyro-shawarma shop, supplemented with a rotisserie.
A whole rotisserie chicken ($14.49) is juicy and fall-apart tender. It’s far superior to the grocery-store variety, is just a couple bucks more and comes with warm pita and a compulsively dippable garlic sauce.
It goes nicely with the tabbouleh ($6.99), so packed with mint and parsley that it’s about 50-50 herbs to bulgur. Some chopped tomatoes and cucumbers offer texture and a change of pace; lemon juice zings through it all.
Round out a meal with an order of hummus ($5.99) — bedecked with olive oil and so creamy it makes the grocery-store stuff seem like another genre of thing entirely — and you’ve got a restaurant meal to feed a family for under $30.