In the early part of his career, Tu David Phu worked at Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen in Berkeley. He worked both front of the house and as a chef at Saul’s, and unsurprisingly, it was there that he came to know and love pastrami.

Chef Tu David Phu, Asian Food Mafia
Chef Tu David Phu

He not only learned how to make pastrami, but to pair it with griddled rye bread, swiss cheese and sauerkraut. Still, the Vietnamese-American chef couldn’t help but wonder how slices of the salty, smoky beef would taste paired with vinegar-pickled carrots and daikon and a smear of creamy pâté in a banh mi.

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Well over a decade later, for his new pop-up, BanhMi-Ni at Copper Spoon Kitchen & Cocktails in Oakland, Phu finally has the opportunity to give the pastrami banh mi a try.

“It was the first thing I thought about doing,” he said. “Sometimes it takes exactly the right moment to execute the things in the back of your head.”

If the sold-out crowd on his first day was any indication, as well as how this taster felt about it, that sandwich was definitely worth the wait.

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