I walked in, stopped, and announced, loudly: “Aaahhhhh…. Choo!” After several attempts, I finally arrived with the door unlocked and sando in the chiller. Although no one blessed me, I was blessed with some blissfully good Japanese-style sandwiches. Sando is part of yōshoku, or Western-inspired Japanese food. In the case of sando, the Japanese put their unique spin on every element of the Western sandwich.
The bread, shokupan, or milk bread, is similar to American white bread but with the slightest of sweetness. If you are an anti-cruster, sando is the peanut butter to your jam because the prep requires crust removal, leaving only a ghost of brown fringe. Sando fillings are prepared with the attention to detail usually reserved for sushi with ingredients carefully chosen to complement each other. Chef Dong Ho Choo’s sandos are designed to give the primary ingredients the main stage. These sandos are about tasting what’s in them, not nuking your taste buds with over-the-top sauces and spreads. The preparation is also similar to sushi in that great attention is paid to aesthetics. These are the cutest dang sammiches I ever done ate.
Choo offers a variety of sando to choose from. In some cases, there’s a mix of sando in the standard package of three half-sandwiches. Besides standard menu items, Choo also has special sando and special sides. The Bride and I went bonkers on our first visit because, just like a coven of kittens, you want them all! We picked up a couple variety packs (a fruit combo and a pork, shrimp, beef combo) as well as packages of smoked salmon and egg salad and the lobster salad special. A package of three halfers generally runs about $15 to $17 and is enough for a meal.
As promised, the ingredients sing. You could taste and savor every element of each sando. The Smokey Sally performed with notes of avocado, mascarpone cream cheese, cucumber, and romaine in harmony with with the yuzu smoked salmon. I particularly liked the Tamago Sando with a sky of fluffy, Japanese-style egg salad embracing the rising half-sun of a soft-boiled egg. And you can’t help but smile at the delightful fruit sando with strawberries and grapes hovering in housemade whipped cream.
Chef Choo has a long history in Allandale. He worked at Haru (now Ichi Umi) for more than 15 years before stumbling into making sando for a church fundraiser. The success of the sando fundraiser led directly to Choo. Besides sando, Chef Choo brings his Ichi Umi chops with sushi and omakase also available for pre-order and take-out.
It took a couple attempts for us to try Choo since they sell out and the pre-orders require a week of pre-planning (something we are incapable of). If you hit the store soon after it opens on Saturday at 10:30, you can have the pick of the litter (apologies to the young woman I nearly knocked over in my sando euphoria…). I also recently stopped in during a Thursday lunch hour and found the sando still stocked (I tried the KFC Sando: Korean-fried cutlets with pickled cucumber, cole slaw, and dill grain mustard). Although the sandwiches can be kept for a day or two, I recommend eating them when they are fresh, same day. I think they taste better cool, not cold, so if you fridge ’em, let ’em warm up a bit toward room temperature.
All in all, Choo is highly recommended. At the very least, they are nothing to sneeze at.
Choo, 5222 Burnet Road #535, (512) 800-0119
I wrote this review for the Allandale Neighbor.
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