In Short: Sando Bar delivers a breakfast and lunch experience infused with Japanese flavours and ingredients. It dishes up one of the best sandwiches in town with its pork katsu sando.
A definite darling of Sydney instagrammers in 2018, Sando Bar gained fame with their Pork Katsu sandwich. As a blogger rapidly approaching my mid forties, I have fatigued of the scrums trying to get into one Sydney’s coolest cafes, so I thought I would wait until early 2019 to sample the menu. I got in early on a stinking hot day, yet within a half hour, Sando Bar was filled with customers. So yes, even in 2019, it is still one of the hottest seats in town.
Having spent some time in Japan, Sando Bar reminds me of an izakaya. It’s informal, communal and relaxed. While the menu isn’t strictly izakaya style, the vibe still gave me the feels I experienced sitting in an izakaya in Asakusa, minus the annoying cigarette fumes, which we take for granted in Sydney.
You could skim through the breakfast menu at Sando Bar and think you are one of the dozens of cafes that dot the area, but on closer inspection there are elements that set it apart. For example take the smashed avocado with its furikake seasoning or pea ‘n’ ham on toast with edamame puree and shiso dust. It’s those Japanese elements that make Sando Bar quite special.
Before delighting in the food, I cooled down with a cold drip. An initial bite of tartness gave way to smoky tea like flavour. Coffee is by Little Marionette, and I appreciated the smooth texture and refreshing sweet finish. On 38 degree day, this is best non-alcoholic drink on the menu.
You know how I spoke earlier about the menu and not all is as it seems. Tomato and bocconcini looks a typical Italian starter, but has a surprising Asian flavour. I loved the flavour of the sesame oil that come through. The tomatoes are superb and filled with sun ripened flavour with a creamy boconcini adding a rich finish along with its playful elastic texture. A harmonious little salad that really awakens the palate.
Undoubtedly the star offering at Sando Bar is the pork katsu sando which is comprised of two sandwiches, each tucked with a slab of panko crumbed pork with apple fennel slaw, mustard mayo, and tonkatsu sauce. I was won over on my first bite. Tender pork perfectly cooked with that tiniest blush of pink. It’s packed with flavour, and enhanced with mustard and the sweetness of the tonkatsu sauce. What is forgotten by most though, but didn’t escape my attention, was the bread. We had a chance to have a quick word with owner Naoya Shimada, and I asked specifically about the bread. He too acknowledged how important it is in keeping the sandwich together and how the sandwich went through a few iterations until the right bread was found. It is just firm enough to hold the pork and the sauce, yet still delicate enough for the bite. Without doubt, one of the best sandwiches in the city and worth the trip to Surry Hills for it alone!
From the super carb sandwich, I switched over to another star carbohydrate dish, which was the poke rice bowl. A dish that contrasted the pork katsu, this was delicately flavoured elements coming together. Lime cured tuna was just exquisite. It still contained that salty, meaty flavour of tuna, yet with the tropical citrus notes of the lime. Flying fish roe add a salty pop-in-your mouth texture experience. Wasabi mayo injected a creamy heat and there is more delicious contrasting texture with tostados and specks of seaweed. It’s an accomplished poke bowl that brings together elements of Japanese and central American flavours.
Not wanting to leave the cafe for the furnace outside, I lazed on one last coffee. Continuing with the theme of keeping cool, I chose the iced latte. At Sando Bar, the iced latte reigns supreme. I was particularly taken with the intensity of the coffee flavour. Iced lattes can be over sweet, cream filled, over indulgent drinks, yet this one was beautifully balanced. There was still a silky, creamy texture that wasn’t diluted by the ice and is good right to the end.
If you have not tried one of the best sandwiches in town, I hope I have convinced you now that you must make tracks to Sando Bar. Alongside the sando is a supporting cast of interesting dishes and solid coffee backing up on the beverage front.