After working in some of Sydney’s best South East Asian eateries, Joe Kitsana is now producing chilli-paste-soaked chicken sandwiches; noodle salads; and takeaway breakfasts for Darlinghurst locals.

After taking over the Kings Lane Sandwiches lease, Kitsana (who knows a lot of locals from his time running Phamish, a Vietnamese restaurant which is also on Kings Lane) opened Republic Sandwiches in June. He didn’t expect the response he received.

“People expected me to cook Asian food,” he says. “I had about 10 sandwiches [initially], but now I have cut down to what people like.” There’s an undeniable Asian influence, though; Kitsana says that’s what his cooking is all about. “I like to cook where the fish sauce goes,” he says. “It’s more challenging.”

Influence from the important people in his life, including his adoptive father and a handful of chefs that he has worked with, is apparent: menus line the walls, from Longrain and Sailors Thai, as well as signed menus from Claude’s Restaurant, Phamish and Stephanie Alexander’s 1984 Australian Banquet.

His menu has grown to include more Asian-influenced salads, including a vermicelli salad with poached chicken; and green papaya salad with prawn and pickled eggplant. But people come back for the chilli-paste chicken and tamarind sandwich, or the braised brisket “sandwich” (a pile of black-vinegar-soaked pulled brisket and julienned carrots and daikon aside a handmade steamed bun).

He also serves an all-day breakfast, with toasties and BLTs cooked to order, and Asian-inspired desserts (black sticky rice with coconut and jackfruit cream) and pastries. Almost everything is made from scratch, including the chilli paste; breadcrumbs (for the schnitzel); pickles; and daily made herbed mayo. Bread is by Sonoma.

The space itself is small but not constrictive. There’s a handful of tables near the entrance. A backyard courtyard offers an alternative for city workers. There’s simple tiling, a mirror down the main wall and plenty of personality.

Republic Sandwiches & Salads
1/28 Kings Lane, Darlinghurst
(02) 8385 7110

Mon to Sat 8am–3pm