Some people call sandwiches “sammies.” In that case, I call these super sammies to savor. Right now.
The Bread Bag Pandesal Bar
The Burgos Circle store is fast becoming my go-to place when I want an early breakfast. I’m usually there by 7am when they open, so early that the aircon hasn’t even been turned on yet and the staff are still in their street clothes.
Bread Bag’s biggest selling point is their bread, which they call the Casa Marcos pandesal. Supposedly the original pugon (wood-fired oven) pandesal, it was quite the draw at the Casa Marcos restaurant which was popular in the 1940s. After several moves (Roxas Boulevard to Gilmore Street in San Juan to Morato in Quezon City), it’s found some semblance of permanence at Burgos Circle where it sits above Bread Bag.
The Casa Marcos pandesal is particularly crusty and thick, the better to sop up the restaurant’s tasty Sopa de Mariscos and to accommodate Bread Bag’s juicy sandwich fillings. It also has that irresistible smoky flavor characteristic of pugon pandesals.
I’ve tried all of Bread Bag’s sandwiches and I have three favorites. The star of them all is the Adobo Flakes with Kesong Puti (P122). Now, there’s adobo flakes and then there’s Bread Bag’s Adobo Flakes. It sounds almost exotic in the menu description: “A roulade of ground pork and beef, boiled egg, pickle relish and chorizo,” but that’s not quite accurate. In reality, it’s pork that’s been braised for so long that it’s become dark brown and imbued with a meaty flavor that flirts with feral. There’s definitely liver in there somewhere which accounts for the extra richness in the meat and echoed in what they call the house gravy. I can live without gravy I tell you, but this one, I like. It’s thick and almost too smoky with pocks of peppercorn bringing bits of black to the brown; its aftertaste is a piquant almost too-salty tang. Every bite is a bliss-smack of tender meat, nuggets of salty creaminess from the kesong puti, the density of bread, and this gravy, making for one chin-dripping, sandwich-is-love feast.
The Corned Beef (P122) sandwich isn’t from a can – it’s truly beef that’s been cured. Not as salty as the more processed versions, this corned beef is satisfyingly meaty, somewhat salty. Long strips of it dangle from the pandesal’s edge, but it’s plated so that from side-view, it looks like an afro sitting on a leaf of lettuce, its accessories: slices of onion and scrambled eggs. It’s a tall sandwich that needs to be pressed down with modest force before being dipped into the accompanying garlic-mayo which rounds out the meat’s saltier edges. “Wash” this sandwich down with great handfuls of the potato chips.
I love sardines but I won’t eat them with rice, it’s got to be with bread or pasta. Whether it’s sardines from a can or those more upscale bottled ones, I love them all. Bread Bag has a sufficiently stuffed sardine sandwich (P99) oozing so enthusiastically with tomato sauce that it soaks the bread below, making eating this out of hand a love-soaked primal feast. If you’ve eaten canned sardines in tomato sauce, then you’ll know what this sandwich tastes like but it becomes ten times better with this thick-pillowed pandesal and its crusty crumb.
The Bread Bag Pandesal Bar/Casa Marcos
Forbestown Strip, Burgos Circle,
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
(02) 703 7784
Open from 7am.
Photo courtesy of Elbert Cuenca
Bagel & Lox
Initially, it’s easy to dismiss a bagel and lox as a no-brainer sandwich to prepare. What could be so difficult about slapping together some smoked salmon (lox), and smearing cream cheese over a bagel? Well, as they say, the devil is in the details.
Elbert’s Cheesesteak has added another sandwich to its selective selection. Called Bagel & Lox (P340), it’s as classic as it comes. A bagel, soft but chewy enough to retain bite, is smudged with cream cheese, just enough that a veneer of it allows the bagel’s crumb to peer through, and in some parts a more opaque coating.
Then there’s the star, the lox, which I’m certain must have been the inspiration for this sandwich, a New Zealand cold-smoked, Chinook salmon. It possesses a firmer texture due to the water content lost when it’s brined, and its intense flavor is amplified exponentially by the smoking process. Moist, with overlapping notes of fish and spice, ample layers of it lick my lips when my mouth moves in for a bite.
On first flirt, there’s a topnote of lemon that I taste but cannot see. It’s the linchpin on which all the other ingredients rest – the bite of onion; the salty punctuation from the chives, and most important, leaves of dill, their flavor unlike anything else. Each item on this seemingly ordinary round of bread is distinct, their discrete flavors melding into a thoughtfully-rendered whole.
Bagel & Lox: such a simple yet perfect sandwich, such giddiness in the satisfaction it brings.
Elbert’s Cheesesteak Sandwiches
R1, Power Plant Mall