with vietnamese cuisine, you often get an assortment of garnishes, sprinkles, sauces and kickers with the meal, which appeals to those of us who enjoy choose-your-own-adventure types of dishes. i think of it as being allowed to participate with the chef in the food preparation, by adorning it and tweaking it with final touches until it is truly and personally complete. you usually get things like bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapenos, peanuts, shredded lettuce, etc.. which all are good, but really don't vary too much between restaurants (i.e., how do you screw up -- or distinguish -- sprouts or sliced jalapenos?). not to mention all the rice noodles everywhere, which are also hard to get wrong..
so it is the house sauces, the marinades, the breads, the broths, the mock ducks that seem to me to be the key to what makes a good vietnamese restaurant. and in that area, jasmine deli is fantastic! the banh mi sandwiches are so good that before i was half done with trying my first one, i was scheming for an excuse to go back very soon and have another one. the mock duck is very tender, and scantily dressed in a delicately sweet, seductive marinade. the bread itself is delicious, too, with a good chewy/crusty balance. i have yet to try the noodle soup, but i did have the rice noodle salad, which was also very good. the spring rolls were the only thing i found to lack distinction (although they are still tasty).
so really, who cares, i could eat sprouts and noodles all day long, anyway -- standard or not.. so when places like jasmine deli step up and deliver beyond that, it's a bonus treat. oh yeah, and this place is insanely cheap, too (especially the sandwiches).. sprinkle me up!