A classic katsu sandwich has a Panko-crumbed pork cutlet, shredded white cabbage, tonkatsu sauce and mayonnaise. And it’s everywhere right now. From the much-Instagrammed abalone version at Cutler & Co. to a classic pork rendition at wine bar The Moon, the Japanese snack is part of a wider trend that taps into the nostalgia-inducing practice of serving delicious stuff between slices of fluffy processed white bread – like the Nigella Lawson-approved pig’s head sandwich at Collingwood’s Congress.
Bench Coffee co-owners Joshua Crasti and Nick Chen (their other business partners are Frankie Tan and Claye Tobin) became obsessed with the katsu sandwich during trips to Japan.
“These are things you get from vending machines and things. Even the bad ones are amazing,” says Crasti. “You can get them on trains. You can get them in restaurants. They’re absolutely everywhere.”
But at Saint Dreux you’ll find variations including prawn, chicken, egg and Wagyu beef, as well as several types of castella – a Japanese sponge cake.
“[It’s] originally a Portuguese cake that was brought over to Japan,” says Crasti. “These cakes have to be baked in a wooden baking tray, otherwise they cook too quickly and overheat from the steel pan and then dry out.”
Saint Dreux is scheduled to open this Thursday in the food court at St. Collins Lane. And on Sunday, every katsu sando will come with a free coffee or soft drink.
The food court location makes sense; in Japan high-end restaurants are as often in train stations as they are the main streets.
“We wanted to take a neo-modernist approach to Japanese classicism, I guess,” says Crasti of the food-court space, which will feature charred timber and Japanese porcelain serving ware. “We wanted it to have the shoji screens and [make it] look as if light was coming in from the outside. We wanted to bring the Japanese experience to the food hall.”
Saint Dreux is scheduled to open on March 14, 2019 at level 2 St Collins Lane, 260 Collins Street, Melbourne.