Cafe Metro’s New ‘Taste of Asia’ Sandwiches Take a Page From the Num Pang Playbook
I’ve eaten at Cafe Metro exactly three times. Once out of requirement – our admin had ordered a large number of sandwiches for a power lunch working session. Once out of desperation – a need for a greasy breakfast sandwich to fight a nasty Friday morning hangover. And most recently, out of curiosity – based on a helpful tip from John K who let us know that Cafe Metro was now selling “Num Pang style” sandwiches. Funnily enough, at 41st and Lex, the Num Pang and Cafe Metro are about 100 ft apart.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, I’ll give Cafe Metro some credit for at least trying to switch things up a bit and earn some distinction over all of the other generic delis. You may recall the chicken tikka masala sandwich that received mixed reviews, and now they’re continuing with the Asian inspired theme, as enlightened or mis-guided as that may be.
The “Taste of Asia” sandwich menu lists 6 sandwiches, which range in price from $7.69 – $7.99, and feature creations such as “7 spiced chicken”, “Korean BBQ short rib”, and “coconut poached shrimp”, served on the stubby baguettes eerily similar to Num Pangs. The roll and the warm ingredients are warmed in the oven, and cold ingredients, such as cilantro, kimchi, or slaw is added on afterwards – a welcome touch that not all delis adhere to.
On my visit, I went with the hoisin glazed pork belly, which seemed to integrate the deep flavors of Chinese 5-spice into the meaty, although somewhat dried out pork belly. Red pepper aioli, cilantro, and kimchi are layered on, and give a lively bite of flavor through their texture and zing. Although ,perhaps too much hoisin made the sandwich a little too sweet, I found myself… actually enjoying the familiar Asian flavors of the sandwich. To poke holes, the sandwich is a mite small for the price, if you’re hungry, you’ll want to grab a side. Additionally, the bread was somewhat tough and chewy, instead of an airy crumb with a crispy crust, like at Num Pang or any good banh mi dive. But for a chain deli, you could do far worse than this. In fact, I’ll almost certainly be back to try another flavor from the new menu.
So dear readers, hell has officially frozen over – here’s a chain deli Asian fusion sandwich that we can actually get behind.