A chef could be satisfied with creating interesting dishes such as osso buco with bone marrow mascarpone mayonnaise or braised rabbit with grapefruit gastrique. But what happens when one asks, "Why don't we take all of these entrees and just throw them on Leidenheimer bread?"
That is what Michael Brewer has done at The Sammich, the new eatery on Maple Street that's hoping to attract Uptown diners with unique po-boys and small plates. Brewer is attempting to raise the sandwich to daring and artsy new heights. The Sammich grew out of a kitchen window nook at the music club Chickie Wah Wah, and Brewer moved the concept to its home on Maple Street earlier this year — at a spot that has housed a number of eateries in recent years, including a New York-style deli, Antonio's and a Thai restaurant, among others.
Although those restaurants failed, it doesn't seem to be a bad location. The Maple Street corridor is abuzz with university students hanging out and studying at nearby coffee shops. The Sammich space is a clean, brightly lit room with a bar and a number of picnic tables and flatscreen TVs.
But elevating the humble sandwich isn't a casual affair, and you'd better put up or shut up in the home of the po-boy. The Sammich, fortunately, mostly puts up well. Familiar New Orleans po-boys, including fried oyster, fried shrimp and barbecue shrimp are executed nicely, though they are not the pinnacle of those sandwiches in town. A hot pressed Cuban also satisfies, but it's with the unique offerings that The Sammich stands out.
The En Brochette, a nod to the classic New Orleans appetizer, is piled generously with fried oysters, thick-cut bacon, brie and meuniere sauce, and it's a winner. As is the fried chicken sandwich, served with barbecued pulled pork and house-made coleslaw. A duck confit po-boy, featuring shredded duck confit, brie and foie gras mayonnaise, is an ambitious offering that will fill you up, as will the rabbit, which drips with fragrant jus. One letdown, however, is the tempura-fried lobster knuckle sandwich with spicy mango cream. At $15, it is the most expensive sandwich on the menu, but it fails to live up to its promise. Additionally, sandwiches ordered later in the day suffered from French bread that was nearing the stale point — lunchtime is a better bet here.
Small plates do not disappoint. An ample serving of smoked tuna dip, blended with capers and Kalamata olives, is the best I've had on the Gulf Coast, and deviled eggs with crabmeat, capers and cornichons also are a treat. The best, however, are the absolutely spot-on crispy and fluffy duck fat fries, sprinkled with shaved Parmesan and served with garlic mayonnaise. If you're partial to snails, fried escargot are wonderfully garlicky and not at all greasy.
The Sammich wins points for creativity and chutzpah. It's not easy to woo sandwich lovers in a sandwich town, but to that end, it's filling its roll well.