I like to imagine that the menu at The Sandwich Shop, the brand new addition to the food offerings at Lonsdale Quay, was born of a gloves-off showdown between two bold and uncompromising chefs who are well versed in the art of sandwich making.
"My signature sandwich will include roasted pork, garlic jam and arugula," challenged the first chef, while whittling a tree branch into a new sauce spoon.
"Meh. Not bad," said the second chef, tilting his Stetson forward. "But I would have added caramelized onions, truffle oil and pork crackling, just to make it a bit more memorable."
Cue a rolling tumbleweed and some menacing Ennio Morricone spaghetti Western music and you'll begin to appreciate the spirit of the offerings at The Sandwich Shop.
The ingredients listed above comprise the Porchetta, just one of eight sumptuous, drip down your fingers, truly over-the-top sandwich creations available at the newest venue from the creators of the successful Fish Works restaurant located up the road on Lonsdale Avenue.
The Sandwich Shop is an ode to some of the greatest ingredients that you can stuff between two pieces of bread, in this case a freshbaked ciabatta bun. All of the principal ingredients in the sandwiches, save the cured meats that contribute to two of the menu items, are prepared in-house and would easily make delicious stand-alone meals in their own right.
I recently saw an advertisement for a new pizza offered by a major North American restaurant chain. The dough of the pizza was shaped in a slightly floral pattern, each petal cradling its own cheeseburger.
According to the published nutritional information about this pizza, each slice contains 100 per cent of an adult male's recommended daily intake of sodium, approximately one quarter of the appropriate daily calories, and just over one-third of the recommended daily fat. Ordering such a pizza seems like the dining equivalent of Russian roulette.
When I say that the offerings at The Sandwich Shop are over the top, I have something quite different in mind.
Unlike the mortal dare represented by the cheeseburger pizza, The Sandwich Shop's offerings are not designed with sheer volume of ingredients in mind, but rather with a view to blending as many delicious, harmonious flavours into one sandwich as possible while still respecting the integrity of each ingredient independently.
These sandwiches deftly walk the line between indulgent and excessive; each one is rooted in a classic, proven combination of complementary ingredients, revealing the solid culinary knowledge of the menu's designer. My recent visit to The Sandwich Shop with my tasting partner DJ began with the Korean Short Rib sandwich, an item that narrowly took the top spot of our impressive menu sampling.
First, a generous pile of shredded short rib meat was piled atop a ciabatta bun.
Then came a handful of kimchi, followed by finely chopped green onions, shredded daikon, and sesame seeds, which were toasted to order. The resulting sandwich was as close to perfect as I've had; the rich and tender short rib meat was beautifully balanced by the crisp and fiery kimchi and the piquant daikon. A subtle and unexpected kick of ginger, which I believe came from a custom mayonnaise (not listed among the ingredients) was a welcome, fragrant addition.
Next up was the Porchetta sandwich, made from the classic, boneless Italian-style pork roast of the same name. The roasted pork was moist, skillfully seasoned and wonderfully enhanced by the addition of crisp and salty crackling. The garlic jam and caramelized onion added tremendous depth of flavour to an already rich sandwich, while a drizzle of pungent truffle oil provided a decadent finish. The third and final sandwich we sampled was a vegetarian panino. When I encounter a menu so heavily rooted in quality meat ingredients, I find that the requisite veggie alternative is often a middling option, added as an afterthought to placate non-meat eaters. That was not the case with this panino, which was a thoughtful, well-crafted sandwich comprised of artichokes, beets, roasted red peppers, black olive tapenade, creamy havarti cheese, pesto, and fresh, peppery arugula.
In addition to its sandwich offerings (which also include a duck banh mi and a dilled salmon option, for which I will most certainly return), The Sandwich Shop also offers some great side salads modestly priced at $3 each. DJ and I sampled a simple and fresh cucumber and tomato salad topped with house-made herb vinaigrette and a slice of bocconcini, as well as a tasty, earthy red beet and goat cheese salad. Both were welcome alternatives to the standard potato chips and pickle sides one might expect at a sandwich shop. The Sandwich Shop is located at Lonsdale Quay, opposite Soup Meister. Sandwiches are $8 each and panini are $7. Phone: 604-980-0429. thesandwichshop.ca
Chris Dagenais served as a manager for several restaurants downtown and on the North Shore. A self-described wine fanatic, he earned his sommelier diploma in 2001. Contact: email@example.com.
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