If there was ever a year we needed to be comforted by food, 2020 was it. It seems fitting, then, that this annus horribilis will go down as a year of very, very good sandwiches – – at least out west. So much so, that after flirting with the idea for years, I’m finally compiling a dedicated best-sangas-I-ate-this-year list.
First, some rules. The sandwiches had to be new, so no crab toast at Le Rebelle, no beef crudo and bottarga toasts at Lulu La Delizia, no legendary Re Store continental rolls, and no banh mi at Le Vietnam. Secondly, they had to be on a menu at an eatery, ruling out the excellent leftover roast chicken ciabatta my girlfriend Jess made on the weekend (the clincher, I feel, was her decision to go with thin slices of fresh red onion rather than the pickled onion I placed my trust in), as well as the sneak peek I got of the Nashville fried chicken sandwich at the soon-to-open Drasko’s Hot Chicken.
Finally, for the purpose of this exercise, I’m sticking to the Macquarie Dictionary definition of a sandwich as “two or more slices of bread or toast, plain or buttered, with a layer of meat, cheese, salad or the like between” – which disqualifies discoveries such as the ultra-crisp potato-filled dosas at Thornlie newcomer Kopi Time and the glorious martabak manis (a dense, chocolatey pancake) at Ah Beng Kopi Tiam.
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Without further ado, here are the best sandwiches of 2020. I can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for fans of delicious things betwixt bread.
Chashu burger at Arimia
Sheep in the vineyard. Organic veggies in the garden. Solar-power panels all over. Arimia’s a masterclass in green thinking, but chef Evan Hayter also knows how to make all this virtue taste good. Case in point: the chashu burger, an optional add-on to the chef’s menu from earlier this year. Following Japanese ramen-ya tradition, rolled pork belly from estate-raised pigs is slowly braised in soy sauce, then sliced, crumbed and fried into golden pucks of juicy, porky goodness. It’s good eating as-is, but nestled in a bun with shaved cabbage and zesty Japanese barbeque sauce, you’re looking at a tonkatsu sandwich to be reckoned with.
Lobster tramezzino at Si Paradiso
Tramezzino – white-bread sandwiches, sans crust – are commonly sighted at train stations and bars in Italy. Here, at Beaufort Street’s liveliest Italo-Aussie party, the classic snack gets the luxe treatment. Paul Bentley packs poached crayfish, tomato mostarda, aioli and pickled garlic scapes between slices of pillowy Japanese milk bread, lops off the edges, then toasts the finished sandwich in crayfish butter (whoa) for good measure. You don’t have to spring for the additional salmon roe add-on, but you probably should.
Mini scampi baguette at Wills Domain
Although not on the menu proper, this two-bite snack – a highlight from the tasting menu at one of the most ambitious restaurants in the state – really should be. A dainty arrangement of grilled scampi and shredded lettuce in a Barbie-sized baguette, it’s the stuff wine-bar dreams are made of.
Coney Island hotdog at Ethos Deli & Dining Room
Confession: in all the time I’ve spent in New York, I never once saw – let alone tasted – a Coney Island hotdog. Based on the version served at the Young George crew’s new NYC-inspired deli – an oversized smoked beef-and-pork sausage, pickles and sauerkraut cradled in a pre-shrunk milk bun – I’ve been missing out. Just one concern though: has Melissa Palinkas’s up-market take ruined me for the original?
Nonna’s famous meatball sandwich at Joey Zaza’s
One sandwich I have eaten in the Big Apple, however, is a New York-style meatball sub, also known as a parm, hero or hoagie. Although combining meatballs, melted cheese and tomato sugo in a roll is far from revolutionary – you’ve heard of Subway, yes? – Joey Zaza’s version is notable for its plush hand-rolled meatballs. Made with soft white bread for minimum resistance and maximum squashability, these meatballs, with a little bit of force, collapse into a squishy, glorious mess of red-sauce comfort – a defining feature, I’ve been told by many a New Yorker, of a good parm.
Fried oyster roll at Kailis Fish Market
Sticking with the Sandwiches of America theme for just a moment longer: the oyster po’ boy, one of the iconic sandwiches of New Orleans (the other, of course, being the muffuletta) got remixed West-Australian style at Kailis’s sprawling Fremantle fish and chipper. The oysters – shucked to order and fried – are the stars, of course, but judiciously deployed salmon roe and scraps of bacon play their part too. Just add a golden brioche bun and know seafood-sandwich happiness.
Conti roll at Deli’s Continental
Stev Makhlouta and Aldo Putzu, the two pizza chefs behind this Maylands pop-up, sold out of continental rolls in just 25 minutes last Friday. To be fair, they only had 35 rolls to move, but gosh, what rolls! The crunchy and chewy Italian-style bread is baked fresh by the chefs, and the meats (mortadella, Hungarian salami and casalinga) are sliced just before go-time. Arrive early and be prepared to queue: this one’s worth the wait.