Xie Xie | 645 9th Ave. (off 45th St.) | 212.265.2975 | www.xiexieproject.com

WHEN I FIRST saw the list of contestants for the present—at the time—I was excited to see a couple from New York City. Of course, I planned to root for them.

One of them was a young gentleman by the name of Angelo Sosa, the chef and mind behind the very creative sandwiches at the very popular shop called Xie Xie (pronounced kind of like "shee-eh shee-eh"), located in the belly of Hell's Kitchen (and directly across the street from the 5 Napkin Burger's original location).

But then the show started, and after the first few episodes, chef Angelo quickly came off (or became portrayed) as more than somewhat "jerky", whispering to a fellow chef that he "hated" another chef, who was guilty of no wrongdoing towards Angelo than cooking almost as well as Angelo during cooking competitions.

That other chef's name is Kenny, and he was pretty much the only other chef that I was, otherwise, rooting for, although, much to his own frustration, Kenny kept losing out to Angelo in said competitions by thismuch. Both of them admitted alpha males, I was stuck as to who I was pushing for harder, especially with Angelo's extreme, uncomfortable, and almost disturbing disdain for (only) Kenny.

After watching Angelo frequently best his competitors with sometimes successive successful dishes—including a sandwich which won a Quickfire Challenge—I tenuously decided to trek to 45th Street and 9th Avenue (in miserably damp and humid weather) in the hopes of having such a great sandwich that I could excuse, or at least explain, TV Angelo's arrogance. Especially since, it being Wednesday, I would be watching the newest episode of Top Chef in mere hours.

I walked into a "funkily"-decored little room, bright with colors and shapes, which easily evoked the sense that this was light years beyond a Subway sandwich shop in ideology.

Pretty, yes, but stuffy, due not just to the lack of AC, but the residual heat of the industrial bread toaster. I sweat so easily I wasn't sure if I could—or should—even stay. I thought I had remembered one of their sandwiches being recently listed in New York Magazine Best 101 Sandwiches in New York, so I figured I stay. But when I asked two of the store workers if they remembered which of their very appetizing-sounding sandwiches was on that list, they couldn't seem to recall.

Neither could Chef Angelo Sosa himself, who surprised the heck out of me by randomly appearing from behind the kitchen. Yes, I got to meet the man in person, and I am glad to announce that he couldn't have been kinder, friendlier, or more modest. I'm a skeptic by nature, but I did think for a second that he was being anything but completely genuine, aware that he's probably aware of how he's coming off on screen.

No one remembering which sandwich appeared on NY Mag's list, everyone associated with Xie Xie recommended the fish sandwich, which is served on a roll with onion jam and sriracha mayo, and served well by a drizzle of a little extra sriracha sauce.

I would later find out, embarassingly so, that Xie Xie did not at all have a sandwich on that list, which I can now claim is a nearly criminal oversight. This sandwich was, to use a New York-ism, off the hook! Flaky, firm fish, marinated in a slightly salty, rich, sweet sauce, complimented by bright, earthy cilantro, fragrant dill, punchy onion jam, and kicky sriracha. Everything a love about tastes, temperatures and textures was outstandingly present in each bite.

As objective as any "list" can only be, still, shame on you, New York Magazine, although you did redeem yourself by including one of Xie Xie's sandwiches in another of your "best" lists.

The list, in the same issue, was their Best Ice Cream Sandwich, and they did make great mention of Xie Xie's 1000 Year Old Ice Cream Sandwich, bookended by a thin chocolate cookie and filled with a black caramel.

This deserved the kudos; smooth, creamy ice cream held together by crispy, thin, richly chocolate wafers were uniquely accented by an oil black slick of a not-too-cloyingly sweet caramel. As the couple next to me, who ordered their ice cream sandwich before I did, realized, one doesn't plan or want to get this messy while eating, but you eventually concede when the endeavor is this rewarding.

So as I watch Top Chef tonight (actually, tomorrow morning), I'll remember this great New York-based sandwich masterpiece and not worry about bravado or egos, and just root for talent like this to keep making great, great food, which it all eventually should boil down to.

May the best chef win....

Bun Apple Tea!


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Xie Xie | 645 9th Ave. (off 45th St.) | 212.265.2975 | www.xiexieproject.com