I have a fear of doors.
Okay, not so much doors, but I’m generally very anxious about trying to go into a building and not knowing exactly where the doors are. Maybe this is insane or maybe this is common—I don’t know. All I know is I get real apprehension when I’m approaching a place where I’m not sure how things work.
How does this relate to Magasin Table, the wonderful new Vietnamese restaurant inside the 8th Street Market? Well...I wasn’t sure how to get in at first. And that kept me away for months. Months!
This is my job and I am terrible at it.
Anyway, there are doors. By a parking lot. It’s so easy that I have been kicking myself over it for weeks. And, considering the amount of crap I’m usually kicking myself over at any given moment, this one really stung when I took my first bite of Magasin’s food.
Oklahoma City is not hurting for Vietnamese food. We have some of the best Vietnamese cuisine outside of Vietnam, thanks largely to our vibrant community of Vietnamese refugees who made a new home here after the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Pho Cuong, Pho Lien Hoa, Lido, and so so so many more. Even the non-Asian district Vietnamese restaurants are a joy.
So why go to Magasin Table? Because owner Leon Hoang is taking it up a notch. Banh mi that are bigger, more stuffed with fillings. Pho in a golden broth. Freshly made dumplings and sauces and just about everythings.
No one is saying you should stop going to your favorite old school Vietnamese joints, but there’s no harm in adding Magasin Table to your rotation. Unless your mouth specifically hates delicious food. Which would make your presence on this website suspect at best.
I may have a slight phobia of doors/not wanting to look like an idiot, but I have no fear when it comes to dumplings ($6.50 for six), especially when it’s Magasin Table’s potstickers.
Gyoza, potstickers, dumplings, whatever you want to call them (Tiny Asian Calzones? T.A.C.s?), I am a fan. And while I don’t particularly seek out the frozen kind, I’m not actually upset with them. Dumplings are hard to make. But that doesn’t stop Magasin Table from making their own and, yes, you can tell the difference.
There’s a subtle hint of lemongrass and ginger in the pork at the center of these potstickers and it absolutely drives me wild. This is what I’m talking about when I say a dish has momentum. Each bite was a hint, a tease of seasoning—a teasoning—that kept me chowing down until the whole basket was gone.
If you’ve enjoyed a banh mi in the past, you know that they are, in general, tough as hell. Those baguettes are usually pretty skinny, which gives you lots of surface area for crunchy, chewy crust but not a ton of bread in which to nestle your fillings...which may account for why so many banh mi tend to skimp on the innards.
Magasin Table has these luxuriously large baguettes they get from Super Cao Nguyen. The outside is buttery and crisp, with a nice bit of pull, and the inside is fluffy and light and full of space for things like sausage, grilled pork, julienned vegetables, jalapeno, cilantro, and (in the case of the Deli Special - $6) some housemade aioli that puts it over the top.
This was, as banh mi go, about the easiest to eat I’ve yet had. And when I took my friend Karlie with me to try it, she was equally impressed with the lemongrass beef version ($7).
Speaking of how delightful lemongrass can be, I was deeply enamoured with the lemongrass chicken vermicelli bowl ($9). I imagine spending a lot of time this summer at Magasin Table, maybe grabbing an order of vermicelli to-go and sitting out on a patio, slurping down chilled noodles, coated in a sweet and tangy sauce, covered in fresh veggies and perfectly seasoned and cooked slices of chicken.
When OKC gets too hot to handle, this will be my internal temperature control.
On the other end of the spectrum, when it’s time to get warm, there’s no soup us Okies love more than pho. You can get it daily, with prices ranging from $8.50 for a vegan bowl up to $15 for broth, noodles, and filet mignon.
Still, because I’m a very fancy gentleman with a monocle and real wood teeth, I like to get even more exclusive. On Fridays and Saturdays, Magasin Table serves short rib pho for $16.
Here’s what comes to the table: A pretty big bowl of this golden, translucent broth, filled with lovely rice noodles and thinly sliced onions, and an absolute unit of a dinosaur bone beef short rib.
I am fairly certain by the size of these things that it is our duty to eat these short ribs before they can be used to bludgeon people to death. Besides, the meat was, to quote the Mr. Sprigg’s BBQ commercial, tenderrrrrrr.
You will need to use a fork with this pho, as odd as that might seem, because the meat that comes sliding off the bone is still in pretty large chunks.
Decorate the broth if you must, but please taste it without sriracha first. It deserves that. It’s mild and a little sweet with a lovely umami flavor. Some broths taste light because they’re watered down. This broth tastes light because it hits all these high notes without weighing your palate down. It may not be for everybody, but I really dig it. And a spoonful of that broth with a chunk of meat wrapped up in noodles and onion might be the best bite of food I had that week.