At first it was just Oratnek serving the elusive pork-katsu sandwich in Sydney, but they’ve since popped up all over town – Lucky Pickle, Devon Cafe, Rising Sun, Kahii Cafe, Ippudo, SML Cafe, Paper Bird and the Instagram-famous Sando Bar have all spruiked the Japanese-staple sangas.
Sandoitchi, a tiny Darlinghurst cafe that quietly opened in February 2018, run by a trio of Long Chim staffers, served what is arguably Japan’s most notorious sandwich long before before Paper Bird and Sando Bar. Typically, it involves a fried slice of pork, wedged between slices of starchy white bread, dressed with barbeque sauce.
Sandoitchi’s katsu is markedly different from its competitors. Where other cafe chefs and restaurateurs strive to find the softest sandwich bread possible, chef Sam Lawrie, accompanied by Pureephat “Bas” Kraikangwan, have created a more textural and, although not by design, healthier option. It’s staked with salted cucumber, pickled carrots, nori, American-style cheese and tonkatsu-flavoured mayo. It’s also far cheaper than the other candidates at $9.50.
The gooey and rich miso-grilled eggplant sandwich, with provolone and warrigal greens, is smothered in Thai-chilli relish. There’s also bowls on offer, which take loose inspiration from Hawaiian poke and are piled with salmon (which is semi-cured in nahm jim – a zesty and pungent Thai dressing), noodles, melon, shiitake mushrooms, and apple kimchi. If you want, you can get the scrambled eggs with the same accompaniments.
In 2020, Sandoitichi added a dinner service. There's still plenty of katsu in the evenings, but you'll find it in more classic izakaya-style dishes, instead.
The cafe is noticeably Japanese in design and taste, but its Thai influence isn’t inconspicuous. With no more than ten seats, a wooden counter and a few shelves showing off fancy ceramic keep cups, the menu doesn’t extend past items in or on bread, or in bowls and drinks. There’s Single-O roasts, and freshly made juices, which are a rare breed these days in Sydney.