Obika’s Take Out Sandwiches Finally Get the Big +/-
*Sigh* … Obika. What are we going to do with you? When I first heard that Obika, the Italian mozzarella bar chain, would be opening it’s first American outpost in Midtown I was pretty excited. It sounded really good. Actually, that’s not true. It sounded expensive. Imported meats and cheeses? There was no way this place was going to be in the Midtown Lunch price range (i.e. under $10 for a filling lunch.) So, when they finally released the menu, and the take out sandwiches were all under $10, I was kind of excited. I like cheese. I like meat. I like sandwiches. (And most of all, I like Italy.) This could be good.
Not surprisingly, the opening week was pretty hectic. They were overwhelmed and understocked, and as a result the sandwiches were running out pretty early in the day (sometimes even before the accepted lunch start time of Noon.) Reports were coming in that they were pre-made, waiting under the glass, and kind of on the small side, especially for $8. After waiting about as long as I could wait, I finally hit up Obika to see for myself whether these sandwiches could pass the Midtown Lunch standards.
The report, and plenty of sandwich porn, after the jump…
Let me first say this. I don’t mind small sandwiches. I understand that the price of stuff is going up, and when you use the best ingredients, things are going to be more expensive. But if you are going to make a small sandwich, and charge a lot of money for it- it better be a damn tasty sandwich. Case in point: Sullivan St. Bakery (on 47th btw. 10+11th). Their sandwiches are small… and expensive ($6)… but beautiful in every way-the result of careful thinking by somebody who knows a lot about food, and what tastes good. Will everybody like them? Of course not. Even the fat guy in me has some reservations. But if it’s something that sounds good to you, and you can get past the size and price, it’s worth the splurge.
If you’ve had Sullivan St. Bakery’s sandwiches before, and don’t think they’re worth the price- don’t even bother with Obika. Seriously. Stop reading now… because Obika’s sandwiches are just as small, have less “filling”, and quite frankly- aren’t as tasty. And most of them are $2 more expensive. Oh, and also- most of Obika’s sandwiches are made on Sullivan St. Bakery bread. Great news, if you’re a fan. (Especially because Sullivan St. Bakery is so far out of bounds for most Midtown Lunch’ers.)
Their sandwiches rotate, and depending on the day and time they may or may not have all of the options. Also let me admit up front I know very little about fancy meats and cheeses (in fact, I may mis-identify them below). But here is what I can tell you… when I put it in my mouth and chew, do I think “this is freakin’ awesome, I’m coming back for this” or “Fuck, I just got ripped off.” Here are the ones I’ve tried, and my immediate reaction:
Proscuitto and mozzarella. This one actually looks like a Sullivan St. Bakery sandwich (but $2 more expensive, and much less filling.) It tastes good (obviously) if you like proscuitto and mozzarella, but it’s hard to get over the price for such a small sandwich. It’s a close one (because I do love the bread, and the cheese and the meat), but I think I’ll have to pass.
Mozzarella, tomato, and basil. Once again… bread is good (it’s Sullivan St. Bakery), but the tomato was kind of lame. Not terrible… but if you’re going to charge $8 for a sandwich, and use a very minimal amount of ingredients, your tomato better be bright red and delicious. Not bad, but still a pass.
The piadina with soft Italian cheese and proscuitto de parma. I think this one is actually shocking. $8 for a quarter of a quesadilla!?!? On general principle alone I was going to pass on this one, but when the guy behind the counter told me the piadina was imported from Italy, I was like… alright, I guess I have to try it. Imported ingredients cost more, so it will be special- right? Uh… unfortunately, the imported bread actually tastes like it was baked and then shipped across the world before being made into a sandwich in Midtown. Definitely not worth $8.
Alright, I saved the best for last. Bingo! Croissant with speck, fontina and arugula. At only $6 (instead of $8) the croissants are clearly the best deal. Salty, buttery, and warm (from being put into the sandwich press) this was easily the most satisfying of all the sandwiches I tried. Still expensive for a croissant sandwich, but for $6 at least you can convince yourself it’s a little bit more of a value. Not filling, but you’ve still got $4 in the budget to spend somewhere else.
Obika is not terrible, and it will clearly succeed in its location (we are in Midtown after all.) But if you are already predisposed to hating an $8 sandwich, these are not good enough to change your mind.
THE + (What somebody who loves this place would say)
- Top notch meat and cheese, most of it imported from Italy
- The bread comes from Sullivan St. Bakery (the greatest bread of all time)
- They press the sandwiches to warm them up after you order them
- Croissant with meat and cheese = goooooood
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- The price. It is tough to swallow.
- All the sandwiches are pre-made, and once they run out, they are out.
- I don’t know the difference between imported and domestic proscuitto and mozzarella, so why do I need to spend the extra money?
- Better tiny sandwiches at Sullivan St. Bakery (and $2 less)
- The tomatoes they use in the sandwich shown above were not great.
- Did I mention the price?
Obika, 590 Madison Ave. (at 56th St.), 212-355-2217