In the last decade, the banh mi sandwich has become plentiful practically everywhere. But most of the time, at least in NoVA, you’ll find what I call a “bougie banh mi,” an overstuffed sandwich that costs more than $12. The truth is, a good banh mi rarely retails for more than $7. Not that I wouldn’t be willing to pay much more.
At 5T Ice in Sterling, I would happily shell out more than twice the $6.50 I paid for the duck banh mi. Yes, duck. The flaky toasted roll is filled with slick slices of skin-on meat that, along with a swipe of mayo, coat the eater’s mouth in satisfying, salty grease. But the rest of the contents of the sandwich are the foil to that excess; pickled carrots and daikon, vivid cilantro, juicy cucumber, and the subtle burn of jalapeño all lighten up the fatty proceedings.
The banh mi won a fan, but 5T’s raison d’être is, after all, the ice in its name. And the frozen treats come from all over the world, from Mexican mangonada to Taiwanese smoothies. But I was particularly taken with the Filipino section of the menu. Items include buko pandan and corn-centered mais con hielo, still I chose to go classic with halo-halo.
The shaved-ice dessert is topped with a scoop of intensely purple ube ice cream, which I find absolutely irresistible. This particular specimen is a little heavy on unusually savory-tasting beans for my taste, but the collection of colorful jellies and coconut still make the dessert worth plunging a spoon deep within.
I have many more desserts to explore at 5T. Even beyond the icy sweets, there are options like durian cheesecake and pandan-and-flan cake calling my name. But each time I experiment with one of those, I’ll doubtless be ordering a banh mi to accompany it. // 24555 Dulles Landing Dr., Sterling
For more reviews, subscribe to our twice-weekly Food newsletter.