Having set up the successful catering business Mirabelle and the upmarket soup place Zuppa, two young chefs Kobi Bandlack and Ofer Elmaleh recently turned their attentions to something a little different. They opened a new sandwich shop, where they provide their own interpretation of a style of food that’s perceived to be rather dull and mundane.
I am of the opinion that sandwiches are indeed mundane, so I was excited to see how Sandwich on Tel Aviv’s Nahalat Binyamin would fare in trying to change the stereotype. Let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed. The name may be the most unoriginal choice imaginable, but that’s where the lack of imagination ends. The sandwiches on offer are some of the most innovate and tasty that I’ve ever seen.
Set in a busy area on Nahalat Binyamin Street, this sleek and modern place offers a rich and everchanging variety of sandwiches, each with the magic touch of the charismatic young chefs. My friend and I visited Sandwich on a weekday straight after work when the place was pretty quiet, so we had the luxury of having the full attention of Elmaleh as he lovingly prepared a selection of the sandwiches available that day.
We sat at the long wooden bar and were able to watch all the action, as the sandwich preparation area is open to public view. We were offered drinks by an enthusiastic and friendly female waitress, who cracked jokes throughout the evening to lighten the mood.
It was then time to tuck in and try the vast range of sandwiches on offer.
Each sandwich is made fresh on the spot, from the most simple of fillings all the way to the more adventurous ones, which include leek patties or fish kebabs.
While the filling takes center stage, no sandwich would be complete without the bread. The young chefs try to keep things interesting by making sure that every sandwich has its own form of bread, be it a croissant, crepe or thick crusty white bread.
Of the many sandwiches that were prepared before our eyes, one of the highlights was the Umami sandwich, which was made up of Parmesan spread, sea asparagus, scrambled egg and sauteed mushrooms on rye bread (NIS 28). Umami is the least well known of the five basic tastes, but after hearing about this savory flavor for the first time and tasting this combination of flavors, I will try to look for foods rich in it.
The next on the list in terms of interesting combinations was the Sabih croissant with tehina, eggs, eggplant, pickled cucumber, onion and tomato (NIS 25). The fusion of the Middle Eastern Sabih with the French croissant worked very well.
The sweetness of the dough, balanced with the sour and spicy flavors of the filling, produced an interesting combination that made a welcome alternative to the popular street food.
Another notable sandwich on the list was the fish kebab with Jerusalem artichoke stew and red peppers served in thick Ciabatta bread (NIS 48). The fish filling could have been served separately as its own dish, but with all the flavors and textures together, it was a winning combination.
Another one of the weird and wonderful offerings was the duck confit crepe with celery, tomatoes and basil aioli with garlic (NIS 36).
Although the bright green crepe was slightly difficult to get used to at first, the filling stole the show and was slightly reminiscent of a Chinese crispy duck pancake, which is always delicious.
Even the Shakshuka sandwich (NIS 28) was a little bit different than the average. Just when you thought nothing else could be done to shakshuka, the addition of Gruyère cheese and serving it on whole wheat Ciabatta took this sandwich to the next level.
The only downside with some of the sandwiches, especially the ones that come with the thicker, heavier breads, is that the bread takes over and fills you up quickly, so attention is taken away from the exceptionally tasty fillings. Most of the sandwich fillings here could be served as separate dishes in their own right. For those who want to truly appreciate these flavors without the bread interfering, it’s possible to order any of the sandwiches without the bread and enjoy the filling as a salad or a dish in itself.
While we didn’t really have too much room for dessert because of all the bread, we were offered the house specialty canelé (NIS 7), a small French pastry with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust. It was just the right size and gave us a small sugar rush to end the evening on a high.
While at first glance Sandwich may look like any other sandwich joint in Tel Aviv, the care and attention that go into building these works of art separate this sandwich bar from the rest. With fresh and interesting ingredients, reasonably priced food and service with a smile, a visit to Sandwich is well worth the trip.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
59 Nahalat Binyamin, Tel Aviv
Open daily from 8 a.m. to midnight