Saturday, 18 May 2013


Following the tragic irony of visiting my favorite bakery whilst avoiding sugar, I needed something I could literally sink my teeth into. Luckily, a new opening provided just the opportunity, and the edibles, I was looking for.

Tock's is the the city's first genuine sandwich shop in the way many North Americans would recognize as one of their own. Sarnies, it must be said, has more than sufficed up until now with their sometimes-skewed takes on American originals (and is still unbeatable on price), but this new contender knocks the old champ out of the ring.

Although it allegedly specializes in "Montreal" smoked meat, any self-respecting member of the tri-state area should be more than familiar with its menu of Reubens, classic clubs, and smoked turkey sandos - if anything, touches such as tiramisu bring back memories of midtown Italian delis over those further upstate.

But if the menu is traditional, the spot itself is not - slick and stylish, and yet still warm, it is more of a (welcomely) modern adaptation of a deli than your hometown local. There are a few outdoor tables positioned near a takeout counter for summer sandwich eating, and tables and squishily inviting booths inside for waiting out the inevitable meat sweats.

A friend and I popped into its behind-the-Bund location (somewhat strange, but smart for taking advantage of the work crowd) mid-afternoon - it was empty except for us and so we ended up chatting with Brian Tock, the co-owner/founder/Master of the Meat. Brian told us that he had been smoking his own meat as a hobby when his uncle, also in Shanghai and craving a taste of home, suggested that they bring an authentic Canadian deli to China.

And authentic it was! My mouth was watering at the very sound of their signature smoked imported (formerly Canadian and now New Zealand) brisket when we were brought a sample to try - a salty and tender taste of home.

We ordered up two Reubens (even asked if we wanted it lean, medium, or fatty - props for attention to detail) and were soon delivered the double-decker monstrosities in their red plastic baskets, served with a cup of coleslaw and surrounded by a tangle of fries. Ahh, America. Or, um, Canada.

Either way, the sandwiches, perhaps overly ambitious in their construction based on the size of the bread slices, were fantastic - the bitter tang of the sauerkraut cut the richness of the meat while the cheese and mayo creamily brought the whole together (as much as it could, at least). The brisket that had burst from the sandwiches' seams could be used to crown either the subtlety-sweet skin-on fries or the tangy vinegar-based slaw, the latter necessary to balance of our newly-blocked arteries. (More pickles or a proper deli-sized one would have been welcome for this purpose as well - my only complaint!).

This was not a small sandwich, and apparently it gets even bigger - most are available in either regular or "Monster" sizes. If we had been really playing fast and loose (/slow and tight) with our arteries, we could have gotten the smoked meat poutine, but inspired by the immortal wisdom of James Bond, we decided to die another day.

Having been (don't laugh) to the newly-reopened TGIFridays in Pudong last week (it was 'ironic fun', I swear) - which didn't even merit mention as it was the very definition of mediocracy and even disappointment - Tock's felt and tasted even more authentically American (or Canadian. North American. Whatever, eh?) by comparison, and so much more satisfying.

Although I'm almost happy it's not closer to the French Concession for the sake of said arteries, it is nice to know that there's a dirty, delicious sandwich, wherever the provenance, without the 14 hour flight.

221 Henan Zhong Lu, near Fuzhou Lu
Bund/People's Square

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