What to have for lunch... it's a question many people begin to ponder as soon as breakfast is over (I know I do).
Lucky for those who work in Boston's Financial District, there are many places that serve breakfast and lunch specifically. Most options fall under the "healthy fast-food" concept that has really taken off in the past few years.
On the corner of High and Oliver Street, chef and owner Micheal Wang has taken this concept to the next level with Foumami, an Asian sandwich bar. At Foumami, you can experience a world of flavor and innovation stemming from Wang's roots in Chinese cuisine. From delicious sandwiches to salads and rice bowls, you really can't go wrong. On Tuesday, the last day before we began rehearsals for our winter/spring season at the Boston Ballet, I was able to get myself over to try out the menu — and I was pleasantly blown away.
Foumami is a great space, open and inviting. I went a little after the lunch rush and it is just as well — apparently there is quite a line that keeps up during the day... and small wonder why. Amidst a menu full of tantalizing sandwiches and salads as well as daily soup specials, my companion (who thankfully knows the menu quite well) and I decided on two different salads and sandwiches. I also ordered a hot ginger tea, brewed with fresh ginger shoots. It was probably the most delicious and soothing beverage I have had in a long while.
The first was their sprouts and tofu salad, full of crisp and juicy romaine lettuce, spinach, bean sprouts, flash-fried tofu, seared and steamed chicken, kirby cucumbers, red radishes, cilantro, and a sweet and tangy mustard vinaigrette. My first bite of Foumami, even with something as simple as a salad, was delightful!
The second salad was their wasabi Caesar. I admit I was tentative at first, simply because I was unsure how the wasabi would be used in the dressing. Chef Wang has managed, however, to strike a fine balance between all the ingredients. The wasabi is beautifully incorporated, allowing for a hint of the hotness, while still allowing the vegetables to remain refreshing. I could not get enough.
The sandwiches are made on their house-baked shoa bing bread, which is baked fresh every day on site and truly sets Foumami apart. Crisp and flaky on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, I could have eaten a fair amount just on its own. Add a grilled rib-eye steak with garlic-soy marinade and sautéed onions and you have yourself a champ.
The rib-eye sandwich is slightly sweet, but the heat is turned up in their spicy pork loin. Now, when an Asian eatery declares something as "spicy," it is within your best interest to believe it. This sandwich, complete with kirby cucumbers and seasoned carrots, has quite a kick. The spiciness stopped short of being too spicy, however, and in fact took on the same addictive quality normally associated with salt.
The salads and sandwiches had already impressed enough, however it was what ended our meal that really blew me out of the water. This summer in Singapore, I was introduced to one of their popular desserts — ice kachang. When I saw it on Wang's menu, I knew this place was a gem. Although not a popular item in the cold winter, Wang offered to make a couple especially for us — and during the five minutes it took me to devour mine (OK... so maybe I got a little brain freeze), I felt like I was back in Asia. The contrast of flavors and textures from the sweetened condensed milk poured over the shaved ice, the fresh mango and clementines, mochi, and of course, red bean is pure genius.
When summer comes around, I think this "piece de resistance" will really take off. By this time, Foumami will most likely be the hottest place to grab lunch downtown. With Wang's drive and business savvy, I am secretly (and very openly) hoping for another location a little nearer to the Back Bay area... what I wouldn't do for a quick shaved ice treat or an inspired sandwich during a long day of rehearsals.