On the corner of Oxford and Crown Street sits an unassuming cafe. At first glance, it looks like the kind of place serving up second-rate coffees to undiscerning commuters. But, look closer and you'll find not all is what it seems. Single O batch filter. Affordable katsu sandos. Scrambled eggs topped with edamame and wiggling bonito flakes. Sydney, meet Sandoitchi.
Located in a section of Darlinghurst noticeably lacking good coffee, especially since the closure of Edition, Sandoitchi is pairing quality cups of joe with Japanese-inflected fare worth trekking up Oxford Street on your lunch break for. If you do make said trek, let us make a suggestion: order the katsu sando ($10).
Sydney isn't short on good versions of this humble (and very hot right now) Japanese sandwich, but this one's a particularly good, and slightly untraditional, take. Served with all the standards — crustless white bread, a hunk of panko-crusted pork, cabbage and tonkatsu mayo — this one also arrives piled high with pickled carrot, American cheese and nori.
Those looking to bypass the bread can order their katsu as a poké bowl ($13,5), with brown rice, miso corn and shiitake topped with either pork or chicken katsu. Those looking to bypass the meat, can order the umami-packed eggplant toastie ($10.5), the sweet miso butter balanced out by a spicy kick from the carrot nahm prik.
Nahm prik, for the uninitiated, is a Thai hot sauce and a menu staple at Sandoitchi. It's a condiment the cafe's owners may very well have stolen from the kitchen at acclaimed CBD Thai restaurant Long Chim — where they spend their nights working. Chefs Sam Lawrie and Pureephat "Bhass" Kraikangwan, and Saowanit "Ying" Boonrod in the front of house, all spread their time across the two restaurants, and we're sure they're kept awake during their double shifts by a steady supply of Single O Paradox (Sandoitchi's house-blend for milk coffee) and cold brews ($3.5) spaced out between shots of fresh ginger and orange juice ($4). Or, maybe, they're fuelled by Sandoitchi's hot chocolates made with 70 percent dark chocolate from Melbourne's Mörk ($4.5).
Either way, the trio has drummed up enough energy, skill and charm to create a cafe that's a far cry from the humdrum corner store it first appears.
Images: Trent van der Jagt