Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Fuku - East Village, NYC. Bang-banging for dummies

Fuku is the newest venture from NYC chef megastar David Chang. Famous for Momofuku noodle, Milk bar and a bunch of other spots in NYC and abroad Chang has been causing a media storm and some very long queues for the past 10 years with his Korean inspired and very much on trend foodie genius. Fuku, unlike his other sit down restaurants is a tiny place with stools at the counter essentially serving one thing; the Spicy Chicken Sandwich. A brave move, orchestrated with perfection.

I've always strongly believed that a small menu is a sign of a good restaurant, opposed to those places with a menu the size of a telephone book offering Mexican, Indian, Italian, Chinese and Greek. Unless they've got five specialist chefs out the back you know it'll all be terrible. 

On a recent four day trip to NYC I chose to eat at Fuku. This may not seem like a particularly incredible or impressive fact, but this is New York City, in my opinion food capital of the world. So when on a short trip in NYC, which by traditional and socially accepted norms would dictate three meals a day, times by four, equals 12 meals in total. A mere 12 meals in a city with literally thousands of incredible food offerings creates the hernier inducing daily decision of where to eat. 

Luckily I've never let society dictate my food intake. I'm a fully fledged subscriber to Louis C.K.'s patented dietary philosophy known as 'bang-bang', whereby you eat a full meal and then instead of stopping when you're full (like a normal human being), you go and eat a second meal straight away afterwards. Noble prize deserving genius. 

Anyway, Fuku was the second phase of my first NYC bang-bang. The first part was a slightly disappointing bagel from Blackseed, conveniently located directly opposite Fuku on 1st street/10th ave in the East Village. 

So as you can imagine there was no time wasted considering the menu; yes there's a salad and a couple of sides, but we're not messing about here, it's all about the sandwich. A large piece of beautiful crispy/juicy fried chicken confidently protrudes from the bun two thirds it's size, dressed incredibly simply with a spread of mayo and a couple of pickles. It's a beautiful sight, pure simplicity topped with an optional squirt of  Korean chilli sauce. As it takes a couple of bites to reach the bun and pickles, the spicy, perfectly seasoned chicken takes centre stage, as it very well should. It's simply a great sandwich and when you can finish off with a slice of Crack Pie for dessert you know you're onto a winner. Now go bang-bang

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Brazil Sandwich Special: Carne-ival

Brazil; the home of samba, football, nuts, Jesus, a certain type of waxing and, as I recently discovered, a mind bogglingly amazing meat-fest of a sandwich: The sanduíche de mortadella. 

Brazil is a big country (fun fact #1) and so you're not going to be able to just wonder around willy-nilly and expect to find a sandwich as fine as this. You're going to have to go to São Paulo, the biggest city in South America (fun fact #2) and then you'll have to navigate your way through the enormous metropolis to Mercado de Municipal, in the old thriving heart of the city. If you go at the weekend you'll know you're close because you'll be one of the million people squeezing through the narrow streets. 

Resist the temptation to buy food from the endless street sellers and save your hunger and every last square inch of your stomach for your sandwich. As you enter the huge indoor market, again say no, resist, hold out as you pass the most beautiful exotic fruits, polished to a high gloss and piled high in every direction. Today is not about vitamins, today is about pure unadulterated meaty indulgence. 

Now this is when it gets tough, but you must stop yourself from going to just any mortadella bar, there are many crammed into this market, you must keep walking, trudging through the crowd, weak and weary from your travels, until you find Bar do Mané. The holy grail of mortadella madness. This is where you shall feast.

Before I go on to describe this sandwich sensation, I thought I should mention the origins of the beast, as the meat minded amongst you will know mortadella is a very Italian affair. It's here for the same reason that most Paulistanos will sincerely inform you that they have the best pizza in the world. In the late 19th Century, due to an economic depression in Italy and the need for huge numbers of workers in Brazil (resulting from the abolition of slavery), many Italians emigrated to Brazil to find work and much like in New York, they settled, eventually in cities and kept their culinary traditions alive, well and very delicious. 

Therefore, thanks to 120 years or so of Italian influence, a huge pile of mortadella topped with gloppy cheese and shoved in a bread roll is one of the best, and most authentic, things you can eat in this fine city. The thinly sliced meat is thrown on the grill for a matter of seconds just warming it up and getting the edges all nice and brown and crispy, then the cheese is thrown on top and it is presented in a baguette style roll. 

Now, eating it is a challenge, especially when you're foolish enough to take a photograph first, every second counts as the warm juices from the meat begin to soak into the bread, making it more delicious on the one hand but reducing it's structural integrity at the same time. This is no time for table manners, airs or graces; grab it with two hands, attempt to squeeze it to roughly to size of your mouth and attack. The last few bites, I admit, had to be tackled with a fork, the juices had got the better of the bread and all that was left was a meaty, cheesy, bready mound on my paper plate. A truly, delicious meaty, cheesy, bready mound.

-Mercado de Municipal:
-Bar do Mané:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Japan Sandwich Special: Sayōnara sushi, it's Japanwich time

When you think of great sandwiches Japan isn't going the be the first place you'd think to visit. Nor should it be. However, purely for their unusualness and surprising deliciousness (and because I've just been there) they are more than worthy of a post.

First of all how do they look. They look weird. They look like they've been made by an annoying fussy child who hates crusts and will only eat white bread. They're kind of tiny and contain fillings such as apple mush with cream cheese, red bean paste and chicken katsu, which just look like big chicken nuggets shoved in a sandwich.

Not really sold? Well neither was I. My Japan travel companion formed a habit for choosing terrible snacks, however it wasn't until she forced me to try her weird looking ham and cheese sandwich from a 7/11 convenience store that I discovered their unique appeal.

Like many things in Japan, why these strange baby sandwiches work is a mystery, but they do. The bread is ridiculously soft and sweet, the mayonnaise is ridiculously creamy and sweet and the ham, made of god knows what, adds nothing more than a kind of artificial but still somehow addictive hammy...ness. Still doesn't sound good? No it doesn't and I still don't understand why it was! But it wasn't a fluke either. After this I couldn't stop eating them, instead of a delicate beautifully presented bento box or a platter of sushi I'd buy a weird multi pack of Japanese sandwiches, I honestly don't know what was in half of them. My favourite became the aforementioned chicken katsu (nugget-esque) sandwich. Thick crispy batter, soft white bread and creamy mayo, it just worked! But this isn't right, I'm a food (well, sandwich at least) connoisseur for Christ sake!

One possible reason for their mysterious allure is the mayonnaise, of which the Japanese are surprisingly proud, in particular the Kewpie brand. Unlike the anemic bland Hellmanns mayo that we've all been brainwashed into believing is not only the only option but is actually tasty, Japanese Mayo is incredibly rich and buttery and pretty much makes everything as tasty and moreish as crack flavoured Pringles. But in all honesty I can't explain it. Just go there and eat them and enjoy their strange guilty enchantment.

Or maybe it's just down to those super advanced Japanese sandwich robots that definitely exist.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Vietnam sandwich special: Bánh mi

Bánh mi, the general Vietnamese term for French style baguette sandwiches, are found on literally every street corner in Vietnam. The baguette, introduced by the French during its colonial period has become a staple of the national diet, combined with Vietnamese flavours it comes together as one of the best street foods snacks you can get your greasy little mitts on.  And costing as little as 5000 Dong (about 15p) a pop, your greasy little mitts, if anything like my greasy little mitts, will find their way to quite a few. 

The most common bánh mi sandwich and the one most similar to those found in the West is the bánh mì đặc biệt. 
The contents vary slightly from stall to stall but basically it comes rammed with various pork based meaty treats consisting of steamed pork, roasted pork, pork liver pâté and something delectably known as 'head cheese', which looks as delightful as it sounds. On top of the meat goes a whole bunch of veggies, most notably pickled carrot and radishes as well as sliced cucumber, coriander, fresh chillies and finished off with a variety of hot and sweet sauces. The various cuts of pork each bring something different to the table. The roasted pork offers a rich flavour and a sweet caramelised edge, while the pâté brings a lovely smoothness complimenting the crunchy bread and veggies, and the hot sauce, which often turns out to be very hot sauce, brings the fire to the equation.  All in all its a veritable taste sensation, a party in your mouth, a carnival for your canines, basically it's a flipping banger of a sandwich. 

Like all street food in Vietnam as well as being super cheap and super delicious half the fun is in the eating on the street, sitting on a tiny little plastic chair with a bunch of locals watching the insane traffic go by, trying to work out how you can fit an entire family of four, a pig, four chickens and a wardrobe onto a single motorbike.

So next time you're in Vietnam, why not pop down to your local street corner and munch down on a straight up belter of a sandwich. If you're in London go to Panda Panda in Deptford or Keu! in shoreditch. 
They might cost more than 15p. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Barcelona Sandwich Special. Bocadillos for the boys!

Bocadillo may sound like a dinosaur, but it's actually the Spanish word for sandwich. While on a recent trip to the Catalan capital I naturally spent most of my time trying to find the best places to chow down on some Spanish sarnies. And so I present to you here the three best examples of stuff-in-bread Spanish style.

Let's start with Bar Fidel, a great little bar/café found at the heart of the trendy student area of Raval on Carrer de Ferlandina, just off Carrer de Joaquin Costa. Like most good cafés in Barcelona, this was a very understated, relaxed little place; just a few tables, a few chairs and a couple of people chilling behind the bar taking orders. The menu on the other hand was a much less relaxed affair, hosting more than 60 different sandwiches, these guys mean business. Sounds like a dream come true. But wait, no, it was all in Spanish! 60 Sandwiches, the delights of which I could only imagine. It had become a most haunting nightmare- all these sandwiches locked away from me by the cruel mistress of language. I fruitlessly span my gaze across the menu, left to right, right to left. But then, like a beam of light from the heavens, I spotted the beautiful, glorious word I knew deep down I was looking for, the word no language can keep from me, the word, the holy grail....'Chorizo'. The fact that moments later the kind waitress behind the bar leant over and handed out a copy of their English menu is neither here nor there. My choice had been made. Chorizo. With Camembert.

Chorizo and Camembert - Bar Fidel

It came served in a delicious crusty baguette and was amazing. The rich, sweet, salty thick sliced chorizo perfectly accompanied the creamy smooth Camembert. There is one other ingredient which I will reveal at the end, it is the secret to all the sandwiches I sampled, and which I can say without fear of contradiction has changed my life forever.

Next I shall move onto Bracafé, a Brazillian/Spanish chain of cafés, as far as I can see only found in Barcelona. It was in fact a misjudgement that caused me to visit the Ronda de San Antoni Bracafé establishment. I had intended to investigate the adjacent San Antoni market, but to my dismay it was closed on the day of my visit. Hunger took the better of me and so I was drawn to the nearest scran spot, which happened to be Bracafé. It would be an understatement to say that the menu wasn't quite as inspiring as Bar Fidel, and perhaps being given the English menu right away took some of the magic from the precedings. But nonetheless, I decided to go for a classic Spanish sandwich I had eaten many times during my first visit to Barcelona, the Tortilla de Patata; Spanish potato omelette.

Tortilla de Patata - Bracafé

To my surprise - because to be honest I didn't have the highest of hopes - it was pretty dam good. Served in a lovely crusty, floury baguette, the omelette was well cooked, nice and moist, with plenty of potato and of course the secret ingredient, which the keen eyed amongst you might be able to spot it in this photo.

And now, last but not least Café Vienna. Now this little venture was most definitely a premeditated outing. While googling away for the best sandwiches in Barcelona in preparation for the trip (as you do) I stumbled across an article in the New York Times by their food critic Mark Bitten. In the article he describes his visit and makes the not so insignificant claim that Café Vienna serve the world's best sandwich. What makes this claim so intriguing is the fact that this is not some grand Spanish deli or a tiny hidden away little café; Café Vienna is essentially a fast food chain. And so naturally I decided this had to be investigated!

The sandwich in question is a baguette filled with Iberico ham or in spanish Flauta de Pernil Iberic. Iberico ham is a Spanish salt cured ham. But it's not just any cured ham, this stuff is considered the best of the best. It costs around £60 per pound and is produced exclusively from black Iberian pigs fed on a diet of acorns.

Upon entering Café Vienna, it becomes very clear that they are aware of Mark Bitten's review. By this I mean they should probably rename the place to Café Mark Bitten. The walls are plastered with posters of the sandwich with a NY Times seal of approval and the review itself is actually printed in every menu. At this point I began to wonder if Mark had been paid a few Euros for the review, but nevertheless I went ahead and ordered the infamous sandwich with a large glass of beer (you know, the ones only English tourists buy).

Flauta de Pernil Iberic - Café Vienna       

I sat down at a plastic table with my tray of food and unwrapped my sandwich from its waxy paper surround. First impressions were good, it looked great, nice deep brown baguette and the famous dark slightly glossy ham poking out the edges. I'm going to cut to the chase. It was amazing, the baguette wasn't crusty, it was crunchy, crispy even, and the Iberico ham was insane. Forget proscuitto, this is the shit. It has a deep, rich, sweet and slightly nutty flavour which is apparently thanks to all the acorns. There is a third essential ingredient to this sandwich, the secret ingredient I have kept from you that has featured in all these sandwiches. And that ingredient is......wait for it......tomato. That's right the humble tomato. But not sliced and chucked in as an after thought. The secret to all of these sandwiches is that the baguette is rubbed with tomato so that all the pips and juices get soaked up into the bread keeping it incredibly moist and delicious. This technique was used to optimum effect with the Flauta de Pernil Iberic; the tomato ensured the super crunchy baguette didn't dry out the sandwich and the subtle flavour of the tomato let the incredible ham shine centre stage without distraction. But is it the world's best sandwich? I don't think so, I've had better in Amsterdam (see some of my earliest posts). But don't get me wrong this is a blummin' good sandwich and deserves some applause.

So there you have it, tomato is the key to Barcelona's bad-boy bocadillos. Try it for yourself instead of  mayo or butter, it's better for your figure and downright delish.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gaby's Deli, Charring Cross Rd, London. Falafel fest

Gaby's Deli is found adjacent to the horrid, culture-void, baudrillardian tourist hell-hole that is London's Leicester Square. It is the shimming needle in the face-less chain infested haystack, the dazzling diamond in the bland tasteless tacky rough, and so on. Gaby's has been around for almost 50 years, serving some of the best falafel and salt beef to be found anywhere in London. In fact the owner, Baghdad born Gaby Elyahou claims to have been the first to serve falafel in the UK, making him in my book, one of the best people to have ever lived, ever.

The first thing you notice when approaching Gaby's is the window. Like Sirens pressed up against the glass, an array of delactable deep fried, crispy little treats draw you in. Some recognisable and some a little more alien. But we weren't there for the window treats, we were there for the main event, we were there for the falafel.

Unsurprisingly it did not disappoint. Like most human people I've enjoyed my fair share of delicious deep fried chickpea balls wrapped in a flat bread or stuffed in a pitta. But this wasn't delicious, no no, this kind of enjoyment deserves a new word, or at least a combo word to express the taste sensation that is Gaby's falafel. This falafel was super-amazing-incredelicious.

I'm not going to go into the intricacies of the arrangement, we all know what goes into a falafel, all I'll say is this. If you have any respect for your taste buds you will eat this falafel, you will do anything to get your filthy little mitts on this golden, crunchy, buttery amazing falafel. Do it. Do it now.

N.B. I had the falafel in a pitta with all the trimmings, I picked this photo to show off the how amazing the falafel themselves are. The pitta, hummus, salad and sauces were all great and for £4 it's an absolute steal. Go!

(Photo from

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Breakfast Club, Soho. My kind of club

The Breakfast Club is a great little chain of 4 cafes dotted around central London. I visited their Soho establishment, found at 33 D’Arblay Street, nestled amongst Soho's numerous other trendy eateries, bars and boutiques. The decor subscribes to the vintage cafe feel; unmatching wooden tables and chairs, old fashioned posters, rusted signs, and a dusting of retro bits and bobs. Once a quirky surprise, the retro look is now the standard in ‘cool’ cafes in the capital and nationwide. However The Breakfast Club pulls it off well, creating a great, cosy little cafe.
The menu is instantly engaging, offering numerous mouth-watering treats, from American style pancakes with maple syrup and bacon (which I have had and which are disgracefully sweet, salty and delicious) to pie and mash and almost everything in between. However, as you may have gathered this ain't no pancake or pie blog, this is a sandwich blog! So after a cursory scan, I focused my attention on the section entitled 'Hot sandwiches & wraps'. Well, what can i say, it is quite a star studded affair, featuring the likes of the steak sandwich, the pastrami sandwich, the fish finger sandwich, and even the 'When Haloumi Met Salad Wrap'. But I went for the ‘Breakfast Club Club Sandwich', a truly classic number rammed full of chicken, bacon, cheese and a little salad.
Now, I've had good club sandwiches before, but this wasn't a good club sandwich....this was an incredible club sandwich! The sandwich arrived cut into four big wedges, on toasted brown bread. Huge great chunks of beautiful moist chicken breast, thick, salty bacon and crisp lettuce were held together by rich creamy melted cheddar. The crunchy toasted bread was the perfect thickness, not so thin that the sandwich fell apart and not so thick that it dried it out, teaming up with the filling to create a truly delectable texture and utterly satisfying bite. If the sandwich gets a bit too much for you the side of beautiful creamy coleslaw and fresh salad, which come with the sandwich, provide a refreshing interlude to the occasion.
Accompanied by one of their amazing milkshakes (I would highly recommend the banana) this is a lunch hard beaten for less than a tenner. A true gut buster. If you like a lot of sandwich in your club, eat this club (sung to the tune of the 90's Club chocolate bar advert)!