3 gourmet sandwich joints to try this week

Check out these new places that serve up modern American, Japanese and fuss-free sarnies for your next carb fix

1. Park Bench Deli
1. Park Bench Deli
04 Aug 2015

1. Park Bench Deli

179 TELOK AYER ST, S068627. TEL: 6815-4600 OPEN DAILY EXCEPT WEEKENDS. MON-FRI 9AM-3PM. LAST ORDERS AT CLOSING. WWW.PARKBENCHDELI.COM

Hip-hop music pounds in the background. A bunch of skateboards chill out in a display case. In the middle of the kitchen that’s a cross between a grungy lab and chic hipster haven sits a wood-clad island countertop. Here, the blokeish — or should we say dude-ish — stars of this two-day-old (one week at press time) sandwich joint, assemble meaty, carby numbers. On one side splitting rolls: the cute, compact, and über self-assured chef Ming Tan, 28, formerly of trendy small plates joint Lolla. On the other side sawing meat: baby-faced and slightly shy Singapore-born, America-raised chef Andrei Soen, 29, of cool seafood boil joint, The Cajun Kings. Here, they “re-think the sandwich from a cook’s point of view”. This means artery-clogging, delicious American-meets-Asian-meets-anything goes inventions like fried buttermilk chicken and kong bak banh mi.

This collaboration between the pals who met at ACS when they were teenagers has been a long time coming. The idea was spawned over a year ago “on a stone bench in Braddell Heights” while the guys were searching online for supper joints and stumbled upon an “extremely graphic documentary on the best sandwiches in New York and San Francisco”.

Their hearty creations have made guest appearances at pop-up events like Savour and always sell out quickly. Fans, many of them expats and hipsters, have been patiently biding their time. The media buzz and anticipation surrounding this edgy project is sky-high — and so are our expectations. At their permanent digs, the boys have partnered self-proclaimed “management guru” Aamir Ghani, 40, formerly an associate producer at Lucasfilm.

1. Park Bench Deli
1. Park Bench Deli
04 Aug 2015

1. Park Bench Deli

THE LOOK: Park Bench Deli is in good company on this Telok Ayer stretch — stylo eateries The Market Grill and Meatsmith are just across the road. With its vivid blue walls, monochrome floor tiles, and textured raw wood, the place is like a Mexican taqueria-meets-LA sandwich joint. The air-conditioning isn’t the iciest on the infernal July noon we visit. And there are only narrow strips of counter to stand against and wolf down your food. Seats will eventually be introduced, “pending government approval”. But for now, it’s mostly takeaway. Not that the expats we see during lunchtime are complaining.

THE MENU: There’re currently five made-to-order sandwiches to choose from, plus a fried egg and bacon one during breakfast hours (an acai fruit bowl makes an appearance too). The bread is supplied by local bakery The Bread Table. An array of sides including Potato Salad ($6) are packed into nondescript plastic containers and placed in a chiller for you to pick and go.

1. Park Bench Deli: The Food
1. Park Bench Deli: The Food
04 Aug 2015

1. Park Bench Deli: The Food

Kong Bak Banh Mi, $14
The best thing we eat here today. A happy cross-cultural marriage of familiar flavours — but pimped up. Hokkien-style pork belly, soft and sticky from its 24-hour braise in an intensely savoury-sweet soy bath, cosy up to a Vietnamese assembly of crusty hoagie-style bread roll and vinegary daikon and carrot pickles. Yum.

1. Park Bench Deli: The Food
1. Park Bench Deli: The Food
04 Aug 2015

1. Park Bench Deli: The Food

Fried Chicken Sandwich, $14
We dig Andrei’s fried buttermilk chook at The Cajun Kings, and this hulking number is its easier-to-eat incarnation. Presently, the juicy thigh fillet that undergoes a lengthy process of being sous vide with lemon, garlic and rosemary, then marinated in buttermilk, and finally dredged in flour, spices, and deep-fried, is equally rich and soulful. But it is unfortunately hampered by soggy skin and limp bread. Second day opening jitters, for sure, ’cos our friends report that the bird is crunchy when they pop by the next day.

1. Park Bench Deli: The Food
1. Park Bench Deli: The Food
04 Aug 2015

1. Park Bench Deli: The Food

Cheese Steak, $16
“Sliced beef many many, sautéed onions, molten cheese sauce”, reads its cheeky description on the menu. The pan-fried sheets of beef in this Philly classic are comforting and flavourful, if ever so slightly chewy. The roll would’ve been perfect if it were toasted an extra minute.

BOTTOM LINE: Generally good grub, give or take a few teething issues. We’re sure the two charismatic, talented chef-owners will iron them out soon. Because Singaporean diners are fickle, and there are other similarly priced great options in comfier settings just across the road.

2. Patties & Wiches
2. Patties & Wiches
04 Aug 2015

2. Patties & Wiches

#03-10A TAKASHIMAYA SHOPPING CENTRE, 391 ORCHARD RD, S238872. TEL: 6268-7237. OPEN DAILY 9.30AM-9.30PM. LAST ORDERS AT 9PM.

Here’s a spot for Japanophiles to see and be seen. Set up less than a week ago, this upscale open-concept Japanese cafe serving mostly hamburgers and 11 types of sandwiches is tucked in between Japanese culinary school ABC Cooking Studio and a JTB travel agency on Takashimaya’s revamped third floor.

It is opened by a Singapore-based Japanese company called Henry Bros, a distributor of seafood from Japan headed by its CEO Chikara Ejima. Which explains why the company also runs sushi eateries like Ryoshi Sushi at Liang Court, and Ginza Kuroson at Robertson Quay (which opened its second outlet right beside Patties & Wiches). Unlike its seafood-centric F&B cousins, this 70-seater cafe offers more wagyu and pork dishes as the boss reasons that “Singaporeans like wagyu beef, and hamburgers and sandwiches are famous in Singapore, like Omakase Burger”. Soft-spoken chef Kunihisa Yamaguchi, 37, helms the kitchen here. He was previously based in Kobe and Osaka, where he worked at Dean & Deluca for two years and Hard Rock Cafe for six years. Interestingly, certificates displayed outside the shop reveal that chef Yamaguchi is a trained barista. But he leaves the brewing of beans from Common Man Coffee Roasters to his service staff to focus on the savoury bites.

THE LOOK: A Japanese interior design firm came up with the cafe’s tastefully swish decor. The cosy grey banquettes and oversized lamps remind us of a tai tai’s living room. We foresee the cafe being a hit with the ladies who lunch.
 

2. Patties & Wiches: The Food
2. Patties & Wiches: The Food
04 Aug 2015

2. Patties & Wiches: The Food

P&W Tri Formaggio Sandwich, $18
Three types of cheeses — English cheddar, French gruyere, Italian gorgonzola and bits of parma ham party between two plain-looking slices of toasted white bread. We’re no fans of pungent blue cheese, but this Italian blue lifts the flavour of the whole gooey, satisfyingly messy sarnie.
 

2. Patties & Wiches: The Food
2. Patties & Wiches: The Food
04 Aug 2015

2. Patties & Wiches: The Food

Wagyu Roast Beef Sandwich, $55
We almost had a heart attack when we saw this baby’s price tag. Chef Yamaguchi tells us that there was a $95 wagyu steak sandwich, which he took off the menu as “wagyu steak’s quality is too good”. Consider this baby ‘inexpensive’ then. Ha. About five thick slices of medium rare roast Hokkaido wagyu shoulder are stuffed into a slender chewy baguette supplied by Japanese bakery Asanoya. We took a giant bite of the lightly marbled beef — flavoured simply with mustard, salt, pepper and tiny gherkins — and another, and another. It was tasty; so much so that we didn’t swivel our heads to look for condiments (there were none on the tables). But will we pay $55 for this sandwich? Maybe when we become tai tais.
 

2. Patties & Wiches: The Food
2. Patties & Wiches: The Food
04 Aug 2015

2. Patties & Wiches: The Food

Foie Gras Burger, $38
Burgers are technically sandwiches, right? This one is not bad at all. A juicy wagyu patty and creamy foie gras luxuriate between buns with a softly crispy crust. It’s a pretty worthy splurge, but for those who balk at such decadence, the most basic P&W Burger ($20) that comes with the same beef patty sans duck liver is also decent.

2. Patties & Wiches: The Food
2. Patties & Wiches: The Food
04 Aug 2015

2. Patties & Wiches: The Food

Chou-Pop, $3 
Save some space for this cream puff dessert. It’s baked in five flavours — including matcha, strawberry and mango — daily by Fumi Araya, 34, one of the three Japanese service staff here. She was a former pastry chef who made “French-style desserts at a friend’s restaurant in Hawaii”, and specially created Chou Pop for this cafe. We tried the matcha one, which has piped matcha cream with a heart of plain whipped cream within a delicately crispy choux pastry shell. We had to restrain ourselves from polishing off another one. The cafe is also bringing in cakes from chef Masataka Yamashita of his eponymous cakery in Tanjong Pagar Plaza.

3. Koskos
3. Koskos
04 Aug 2015

3. Koskos

B1-34 HONG LEONG BUILDING, 16 RAFFLES QUAY, S048581. TEL: 6221-6151. OPEN MON-FRI 8AM-7PM & SAT 8AM-3PM. LAST ORDERS AT CLOSING. WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/KOSKOS.SG

Consider us surprised when we found this two-month-old sister outlet of local CBD bistro SPR MRKT (pronounced ‘supermarket’) hidden in a dingy office building basement. It brings a fresh hipness to the old school tenants there.

Koskos, which means “an atmosphere that makes one feel a sense of warmth” in Norwegian slang, is tiny but comfy. It can fit 15 people at its two standing tables and a counter with three chairs. Like at SPR MRKT, a small shelf here peddles pricey crockery and condiments by local food artisans (from $12.90 for a jar of smoky chilli).

Koskos is opened by SPR MRKT’s head chef Joseph Yeo, 33, his cousin Quek Sue-Shan, 35, and a silent partner. The cousins set up SPR MRKT in 2012, with Joseph cooking and Sue-Shan handling the bistro’s marketing and retail. Joseph was a sous chef at Waku Ghin. “At Koskos we want to offer comforting, quirky food that you can stand around and eat,” shares Joseph. He crafted a menu with a healthier slant as “people in the CBD like to eat healthily”. He drops by Koskos in the morning “to prepare sandwiches” and spends afternoons at SPR MRKT.

THE LOOK: “The only thing here similar to SPR MRKT is the green floor,” laughs Joseph. The petite space resembles a quaint cottage, with a small window for customers to choose their cakes from a display case and peek into the kitchen.
 

3. Koskos: The Food
3. Koskos: The Food
04 Aug 2015

3. Koskos: The Food

Smoked Duck & Pear Sandwich, $8.90
The pre-assembled sandwiches here are attractively packaged and housed in a chiller for easy grab and go, but you can request for the kitchen to heat yours up. The sweetness of the pears caramelised with brown sugar is wonderful against the subtly smoky duck. The fluffy brown supermarket-style bread is passable. It’s not a gigantic, belly-filling sarnie. For those with a big appetite, grab something extra like a soulful Carrot, Orange & Smoked Duck Soup ($6) to go along.

3. Koskos: The Food
3. Koskos: The Food
04 Aug 2015

3. Koskos: The Food

Croque Monsieur, $8.90
Every Tuesday and Thursday is hot food day at Koskos. On our visit, one of the rotating specials was this traditional French grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Oozy, cheesy and worth the calorie count.

3. Koskos: The Food
3. Koskos: The Food
04 Aug 2015

3. Koskos: The Food

Beef Bulgogi with Egg Wrap, $10.20
Okay, so this isn’t strictly a sandwich, but it’s under Koskos’ sandwich menu. It’s also our favourite of the lot. Umami beef bulgogi and a hard-boiled egg wrapped with fresh veggies like a doughy tortilla baby. Delish and easy to eat.

BOTTOM LINE: We’d regularly grab lunch here if the 8 DAYS office was in the CBD. Kudos to the relatively affordable prices and simple but tasty nosh.
 

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