In a city where most sandwiches resemble finger sandwiches served at high tea–usually involving egg salad and mayo between two thin slices of boring white bread–it’s refreshing to see a big brawny sandwich, loaded with fresh meats, cheeses, and veg. The kind of sandwich where the proper body positioning is required: elbows propped and spread wide on the table, forming a solid base to steady both hands for maximum sandwich delivery. At King George in Daikanyama, sandwiches that are king-sized rule the menu. Yet, rather than getting a towering mess of sandwich fillings, the sandwiches here are artfully executed and neatly presented.
The ingredients at King George are rooted in true American deli style (smoked turkeys and ham, pastrami, Jack cheese, and rye bread), but the execution is driven by Japanese sensibilities. Fillings are neatly layered in an orderly fashion, with an eye towards efficient use of space. Every nook and cranny is filled. This yields a very densely-packed sandwich, encased between two thick hearty slices of bread. Four types of bread, specially baked for King George, are available, and sound a whole lot more appetizing than plain white bread–the kind that is so soft it sticks to the roof of your mouth: rye, dark rye, sesame, and macrobiotic bread. The bread is sliced to a generous thickness, matching the bulk of the fillings.
Vegetarians need not shy away. Although I wish there was more than just one vegetarian sandwich option on the menu, that option is a tried-and-true formula that works: avocado + cheese + crisp veg + grainy bread. Orders are customizable, so you can select the bread of your choice, and make substitutions if necessary. I ordered the vegetarian, and instead of the sesame bread, I opted for the dark rye. My sandwich arrived cut in half, each half wrapped in a neatly folded and creased piece of wax paper. A cross-section revealed creamy avocado, leafy lettuce, tomato, crunchy carrots, cucumber, red and yellow bell peppers, pickled radish, red onion, and red cabbage, and a melted slice of “marble” (Colby-Jack I believe) cheese with mayo. A behemoth.
The different textures worked very well together, and especially since the veggies were incredibly fresh, at their peak. The toasted rye bread, supple and chewy, stood up very nicely to all the crunchy veg. And because each half is diapered in wax paper, your hands stay clean and the sandwich stays its shape.
I would recommend adding a sauce to the sandwich because otherwise, the mayo itself just can’t sufficiently flavor such a dense amount of veggies. Plus, a light dressing would act as a binder to prevent all the veg from slipping around. There were several listed on the menu, but I would have personally preferred to see some more robust condiments on offer such as hummus, olive tapenade, or pepper relish to amp up the flavor of all those fresh veggies.
My dining companion ordered the Honey Mustard Chicken sandwich. Having run out of chicken that day, the kitchen substituted turkey. The sandwich came with Hennessy honey mustard, Colby-Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on rye bread. Nothing complicated, just a standard, solidly well-executed sandwich. Positive report on all accounts from my friend.
Ambiance: If you aren’t paying attention, you may just walk by King George’s sign on the sidewalk, pointing to a side entrance of a building. The restaurant itself is located on the second floor, with additional seating on a third floor and a rooftop terrace. Each floor has an eclectically different vibe. The second floor feels like a neighborhood pub, with a thick slab counter of dark wood, matching stools, and a traditional wooden liquor cabinet behind the counter. Upstairs on the third, the room feels like Grandma’s parlor room, decorated in various oriental rugs, chandeliers, a gramophone, and china cabinet. Very quaint, and perfect for a quiet catch-up with a friend.
The rooftop deck is decidedly more modern, with a minimalist open-air feel, surrounded by planters full of herbs and plants. In the evening, the rooftop area takes on a hipper vibe–turning into a lounge for enjoying cocktails and people watching.
King George, a neighborhood favorite, is owned by a couple who saw a void in the sandwich shop scene in Tokyo for generous portions of healthy sandwich selections using lots of fresh veggies. The shop’s name and logo, a crowned cat, is named after the couple’s former beloved cat, King George. When I talked to the staff, I was told the owners hope to expand King George as a lifestyle brand in the future, into the apparel and retail goods market, so be on the lookout for mugs, t-shirts, and the like coming soon.
King George, 2F, 11-13 Daikanyama, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo