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Katsu Sando at Bright, Hackney

26 Jul

LOCATION: Bright, 1 Westgate Street, E8 3RL [map].

PRICE: £7.

BREAD: White sliced. No messin’.

FILLING: Breaded, deep-fried pork, shredded white cabbage, katsu sauce.

PROS: HA. Didn’t expect this, did you? I’ve written another review!

Remember when I told you the katsu sando is a trend? Yuh huh. FEEL MY TRUTHS. It’s amazing how two sandwiches made with the same constituent parts can be so different, though. Now I think, I think – and I say this as a person who has never even been to Japan I think, this is more what a tradish katsu sando is likeThe crusts are off, for a start, and it’s very neat, you know? It’s very beautiful and the cutlet has the perfect crunch and each bite I feel like I’m floating above my chair watching myself have a moment and I want to prise the fingers of my dining companion apart and take his piece of the sandwich and eat it for myself, like a sandwich Gollum. My precioussssss. 

Oh, but what is not tradish at all is the hot mustard – a stroke of genius. Yes to fierce yellow condiments, which only work because the katsu sauce, in this case, is quite timid.

CONS: It’s more expensive than the sando at Nanban AND it’s smaller but that makes sense in the context of it being a touch self-conscious. Bright is one of those places that’s like ‘oh we’re totally casual, we’re like the new wave of chilled out wine people don’t be afraid’ but then you ask a question about what to drink that doesn’t quite scan past their wine-dar correctly and they laugh at you for not knowing they would absolutely NEVER stock such and such style of x. That annoyed me, I’ll be honest. Point off for that, lads!

SCORE: 8/10 

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Katsu Sando at Nanban, Brixton

8 Jul

LOCATION: Nanban, 426 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8LF [map].

PRICE: £5.

BREAD: White sliced, the kind you ate as a kid before bread got ideas.

FILLING: Crumbed, deep-fried pork shoulder, katsu sauce, shredded cabbage.

PROS: HI! I’m back. Again. Like a bad boyfriend who keeps making promises then letting you down I’m gonna tell you that this time, it’s different. This time, it’s forever.

Here’s the news: Nanban is one of the best restaurants in Brixton and it specialises in ‘Japanese soul food’. As a side note, you must also order their hot wings and the curry goat dipping ramen from the main menu. The sandwiches, however, are served from a hatch at the front of the restaurant and are takeaway only. I’ll leave you to deal with that problem. I’m just gifting you the info, I can’t do everything.

London is having a moment with katsu sandwiches, as you will soon see. Not famil with the katsu sando? It’s basically breaded, deep fried pork in a sandwich with katsu sauce, which is like a Japanese version of brown sauce – full of sweet and sour flavours and in this case, punchy with tamarind. It is a freakin’ delight my friend – do yourself a favour by eating one.

You have the juicy pork, you have the crunchy crumb, you have the freshness of shredded white cabbage and you have the full-on flavour from the katsu sauce – all inside the kind of trashy white bread that makes you whimper with nostalgic delight. Oh, and it’s a fiver. You can barely buy a sodding pint for a fiver in London!!

CONS: Now, what I don’t recommend doing is ordering a portion of ponzu dressed Padron peppers, a scotch egg, the aji fry, a portion of gyoza, a portion of addictive cabbage, a portion of hot wings and a bowl of crab noodles between three people BEFORE you each take down a katsu sandwich. I really cannot recommend that at all. It’s too much food. This is not the sando’s fault, of course, but I just had to get closure.

SCORE: 9/10 (we all know the 10/10 isn’t really a thing).

Chicken Karaage Sandwich at Tsuru

26 Apr

LOCATION: Tsuru Sushi, various locations [see website for details].

PRICE: £5

BREAD: Sesame seeded brioche bun.

FILLING: Karaage chicken, cos lettuce, Japanese mayo.

PROS: What do you mean you don’t know what karaage is? Are you some kind of IMBECILE? Okay fine so it’s Japanese fried chicken. Fried chicken is now officially a good thing, by the way. No longer do we have to scarf KFC or Morley’s on the down low for fear of being ostracised by friends and family, now we can go to places like WishboneMama Lan’s and Tsuru, and eat really bloody good fried chicken. We can eat it inside while sitting down and everything, rather than loitering with it on the streets or worse – YOUTHS – on the bus. No. Do you know what is covering the roofs of most buildings in major cities like London? Chicken bones, that’s what. The kids throw them on the floor and pigeons pick them up and deposit them on the roofs of buildings.

Anyway. This sandwich is incredibly good. Firstly, the chicken is thigh meat, which we all know is much tastier, not to mention juicier, than breast. It’s marinated in mirin, soy, ginger and garlic, then given a good ol’ dustin’ in cornflour and deep fried. It is spectacular; greaseless and, importantly, craggy. A good craggy batter is where it’s at. It comes on a sesame seeded slightly sweet bun, which is golden and shiny and has your back right until the end. There’s cos lettuce and Japanese mayo. You don’t know what Japanese mayo is?! Okay so it’s made with rice vinegar and is a little sweeter than the regular kind.

Now here’s the deal with the karaage sandwich; it’s delicious as is and all but the thing you need to remember is to add copious amounts of Tsuru’s frankly fantastic ‘Eat the Bits’ chilli oil. It’s quite mild for chilli oil actually, but the flavour is incredible. The way to use it is to get plenty of the sediment at the bottom,  hence the name ‘eat the bits’; it’s packed with sesame, red miso, garlic and onion. Get it on there, basically. Also, buy a couple of pots to use at home.

CONS: I would say the chilli oil should come as standard but it’s nice to be able to control how much you put on. Perhaps it should come with a little bit, just to convert any non-believers. I also find myself wondering if the lettuce should be shredded. Perhaps not.

SCORE: 9/10

Tsuru also make an excellent katsu sando, FYI

Tsuru Chicken Katsu Sando, Bankside

11 Jan

LOCATION: Tsuru Bankside  (they also have Bishopsgate and Mansion House branches, see website for locations).

PRICE: £4.05

BREAD: Sliced white, nothing fancy. That’s the point.

FILLING: Breaded, deep-fried chicken thigh with tonkatsu sauce, mayo and shredded cabbage.

PROS: This is deep-fried meat in a sandwich so obviously it’s brilliant. The panko crust makes for a really crunchy coating on the strips of juicy chicken thigh meat (breast is also available but I went for thigh as it has more flavour). The chicken is drizzled with sweet, fruity and mildly spiced tonkatsu sauce, which I’m 98% certain I could drink a bucket of. Crunch comes in the form of shredded cabbage, which has the structural balls to stand up to fried chicken. The slick of mayo takes it beyond the deep-fried city walls and further into the nerve centre of  ‘filthy-good’ and the sliced white is exactly the right choice of bread; perfectly bland and ready to receive.

CONS: My most recent sandwich was a bit short on chicken and I would have liked an extra slick of sauce. Minor grumbles.

SCORE: 8/10