I’m obsessed with another one of Leemo Han’s sandwiches.

Leemo Han is the rudeboy chef and owner of Toronto’s Odd Seoul, Hanmoto, and now Pinky’s Ca Phe, their newly opened Vietnamese concept in Little Italy behind Cafe Diplomatico.

We’ve BEEN waiting for Pinky’s to open and now that it’s here, we got this place on repeat.

It started with the Loosey at Odd Seoul. A drippy, buttery, five-bite kissy-heart-emoji of a sandwich modeled after the Philly-style sliced white bread joints he ate in his youth.

Looseys had me showing up at Odd Seoul after work five nights in a week at one point. The Loosey is Leemo’s “Big L 95′ Freestyle (w/ Jay-Z),” he’ll be a legend forever just off that work alone.

Then it was the pork katsu bun at Hanmoto. The katsu bun is his “Get Down” by Nas. It’ll make you walk with a bop. It might make you throw up a fist for black power.

That juicy, juicy, crispy pork belly and the way the soy remoulade soaks into the coco bread is a declaration: I still run this shit. You get through one and suddenly you’re grabbing the court judge, holding a gun, screaming, “nobody move!” Then you’re like, send me another.

📸: Kevin Polangco

Now that Pinky’s is open, I’m obsessed with the pho beef dip sandwich.

It’s what it sounds like, it’s a pho sandwich. Of course, we’re skeptical of presenting Asian staples in familiar western concepts to make it more approachable, but that’s not what Leemo is trying to do here. He’s not out here trying to sell white people on pho. We’re all eating pho as frequently as we’re eating burgers in this city. If anything it’s an improvement on beef dips.

“I couldn’t have actual pho on the menu because it’s soup.” He motions with his hand to get me to take in the room. Pinky’s is a bar, noodle soup wouldn’t fit. But as a matter of course it’s important to have a pho-like dish at Pinky’s. So Leemo draws from his Philly roots, “in Philly, we had the beef dip.”

He replaces the noodles with a crusty, crusty french baguette. “We don’t use the banh mi buns, they’re too soft and will fall apart in the broth.” The baguette is filled with tender, fatty flaps of richly braised beef brisket along with the standard pho accoutrements: fresh herbs, bean sprouts, lime.

But beef dips need cheese. “Philly beef dips got that provolone, but I’m using asiago.” The tweak is a shout out to French onion soup, circling back to some of the French sensibilities in Vietnamese cooking. A rich reduced pho broth replaces the beef jus and is served in a country style brown and beige porcelain bowl to complete the effect.

So simply calling it pho in a sandwich is missing the point. This is not kitsch. The sandwich is good because all the components are sound.

Leemo selects the correct bread. The beef and broth are cooked to their peak in flavour and texture. The asiago is a thoughtful addition. Serving the broth in a french bowl is an artistic touch. It’s a culmination of his Philly upbringing, his travels in Vietnam, and his knack for crafting sensible and delicious bar food.

Leemo’s food is helping to define next-generation Asian cooking in Toronto. Centring on specific cultural reference points and finding the harmony.

The pho beef dip might be his “Back to Back,” Drake’s summer battle rap classic. You kind of worried about how he was going to come back and then it drops– BOOM! The boy’s still got bars.

Be sure to pick the broth bowl up and slurp the remainder then take a soup spoon and scrape for the little meaty bits.

Visit Pinky’s NOW.

Pinky’s Ca Phe
53 Clinton Street


Manuel Luis Veneracion
ig: @laowlaowpantz
twitter: @laowlaowpantz