Our reporter moves away from Japanese cream-and-fruit sandwiches and tries a Reuben for the first time.

Our inquisitive Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma has been to many places and tried many things, but one thing he’s never tried is a Reuben sandwich. In fact, he’d never even heard of it before his American friend in Japan mentioned it to him, and as soon as she realised he’d never tried one, she immediately told him to head down to Wise Sons Tokyo.

Wise Sons is a deli from San Francisco that set up shop in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district in 2018. Since then, the store has been introducing locals to the wonders of bagels, babka, and matzo ball soup, but their most popular item on the menu is the Reuben sandwich.

▼ Wise Sons describes it as: “From San Francisco, the most delicious pastrami sandwich“.

There are a few options for trying a Reuben at Wise Sons Tokyo — it’s available with either smoked pastrami or corned beef, and in a regular or a bigger “S.F.” (“San Francisco”) size.

Following the recommendations of his American friend, Masanuki ordered the pastrami, and opted for a regular size for 1,280 yen (US$9.37). He also ordered a coffee on the side for 220 yen.

It only took a few minutes for his order to be ready, and Masanuki was all set to get his first taste of a Reuben sandwich, without leaving Tokyo.

The first thing that caught Masanuki’s eye was the amount of meat inside – the regular contained 70 grams (2.5 ounces) of pastrami, as opposed to 140 grams for the S.F. size, which was already more meat than Masanuki had ever eaten in a sandwich.

The Reuben from Wise Sons gets rave reviews from his American friend, and a lot of other American expats in Tokyo, but what would Masanuki’s palate make of it all? He was used to eating less hearty sandwiches, with fillings like fruit and cream, so this combination of smoked meat, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and rye bread promised to introduce his taste buds to a whole new world of flavour.

One thing he didn’t think to ask his friend, though, was whether he should eat the sandwich with his hands or a fork.

It was so voluminous that in the end it seemed easier to eat it with his bare hands. And when he bit into it for the first time, he was glad he opted for the hand-holding option, as the filling threatened to bust out the other side of the sandwich.

So how was Masanuki’s first taste of a Reuben?

“Absolutely delicious.”

Masanuki only had enough time to utter those two words before going in for a second bite. Now that he’d gotten his first taste of a Reuben, he was finding it hard to stop, as each crunch of the crispy, buttered grilled bread sent him to sandwich heaven, flooding his taste buds with smoky meat flavours as the tartness of the sauerkraut and heat of the sauce provided a refreshing finish to every mouthful.

Masanuki described it as “a masterpiece” and now he too is recommending it to anyone and everyone who’s never tried one before. He’s thankful to his friend for introducing him to the flavours of this San Francisco deli, and in return, he plans to introduce her to the wonders of crustless peanut cream lunch pack sandwiches that impressed foreign reporters during the Olympics in Tokyo.

Restaurant information
Wise Sons Tokyo
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 2-4-1 Maru Building B1F
東京都千代田区丸の内2-4-1 丸ビルB1F
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. (Monday-Friday); 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. (Saturday); 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. (Sunday)

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