American cheese is American. This is beyond dispute. The International Court of Justice in The Hague has unanimously confirmed it. Yet cheeky Canadians claim that it’s “Canadian cheese” (which is actually how they label it on their packaging). This is provocative as hell. Canadian cheese! They might as well say that your dog is their dog or your children are their children. If this state-sponsored gaslighting isn’t pulled out by the roots, all of Canada will next claim grazing rights in your conjugal bed. Your bed is king size, but your dog takes up about a third of it, so how the hell are they going to fit? It will trigger tsunamis. The gall is insufferable.
From left: South East, NASH, Triple B sliders
Having got that off your chest, Sip & Slide’s Triple B slider is covered in luscious melted American cheese, ultimate burger cheese, bar none. The colour of orange plastic seating in Department of Motor Vehicles waiting rooms, its plastic-laminate blandness is burger-perfect. You love it. When it comes to burgers, it’s your belief that the kind of cheese that wears a tilted beret is unsuited. You don’t worship at the altar of Wagyu beef, but their burger is made from Wagyu custom-blended with several other cuts, and it is undeniably one of the most delicious (if not, the most delicious) burgers you’ve ever had. Ground beef is difficult to cook just right, almost always overdone. By some genius, they ideally cook it to medium rare so that at the very centre it’s between pink and red. There’s a salty, smoky, crispy piece of Parma ham on top of the meat, as though a Frisbee landed on its noggin. There’s beetroot jam that is innovative and completely works. Lettuce brings good snap. Superb!
This slider (and all their sliders) are served on perfect brioche-like rolls, made with Japanese flour, both light and robust. You don’t know if Japanese flour is better than American or Chinese flour, but this shows that they are fine-focused on even the littlest details of their operation. If a Tesla turned into a slider bun, this is what you’d get.
The fried chicken on their NASH (short for “Nashville hot“) slider has a terrific ultra-crunchy, nubbled crust made from plain flour and cornflour. It is perfection. As some are fearful of snakes, you are fearful of biting into chicken cartilage, but their dark-meat chicken (which they custom-brine) is cartilage free and cooked perfectly. It is superbly contrasted by crunchy pickles and shredded purple cabbage, ranch and spicy oil. Your touchstone for fried chicken slider excellence has long been the version at Bakehouse, and this, though smaller, equals it.
Their South East – cousin to a banh mi – is filled with a good portion of pork neck, which is one of your favourite meats. Your great fear is that this cut of meat will be discovered as skirt steak has been (consequent to the popularity of fajitas) and become hard-to-find-crazy-expensive. It’s crunched up with slivered carrot and green papaya in the manner of Vietnamese salads. The sauce – sweet, salty, spicy – is in the manner of a green papaya salad as well. Original! Commendable! Scrumptious!
From left: Peking Quack and Miso Sakana sliders
Their Miso Sakana is basa fish, similar to cod, glazed with miso and apple, cooked perfectly. All the other sliders are pretty, but this one is particularly artful in its presentation, with the cucumber folded like a bow tie. There’s a great melange of crunchy veg. This is a restaurant that always layers flavours and textures with keen thoughtfulness.
Their Peking Quack is the prettiest of a pretty lot, capped by a perfect sunny-side-up quail egg, and while you don’t dislike it, it is the one you like least. It’s made with pulled duck in a sauce that is so hoisin rich, you can’t taste the duck. It might as well be chicken. What this dish needs is excellent duck confit (so easy to make), barely sauced (if at all), so that its ducky taste can come through. The skin should be salted and left on to amp the flavour. Probably your average HK BBQ duck would work just as well. The key is not to drown the delicate duck flavour.
You are not as excited by their sides as their slides. The yuba yuzu fettucine is based on ribbons of tofu skin. You like the sauce, which is made from soy sauce, yuzu purée and rice vinegar (with chopped scallion, crisp garlic granules and mint). And you like the mushrooms (shiitake, you think), but it simply isn’t as delicious as traditional noodles of some sort or another. It lacks chew. In your view, silver needle noodles would be ideal here. You admire the risk-taking to go this route, but it doesn’t work for you.
Nor does the mac and cheese. The truffled breadcrumb topping is great. But the macaroni seems flimsy. It needs a sturdier Italian pasta with significant bite. And you’d like a much more creamy, cheesy sauce.
You had a rosemary and passion-fruit gin rickey, minus the gin because their liquor licence hadn’t come through yet. You adored the passion fruit, couldn’t taste any rosemary and thought it was a bit too sweet. To be fair, when they add in the gin, it will probably come out just right.
Their iced oooolong ginger tea is extremely refreshing, its tannins nicely counterbalancing the unctuous mains and sides.
Having grown up in New York, you won’t give your heart away to just any cheesecake that comes knocking at your door with a come-hither look in her eyes, even if they’re scantily clad in nothing more than yuzu sauce. But to theirs – a New York yuzu cheesecake – you will. Commonly too dry and too dense, this was neither. It was like a sumo wrestler, both fatty and, somehow, at the same time, buff. You recommend it.
Whereas Wingman (by the same owners) played great 70s pop, including the classic Curtis Mayfield gems “Freddie’s Dead” and “Superfly”, all you heard here was rap. One of the songs had a lot to say about “homies” and “bitches”, by which you hope they mean female dogs. Words make a difference in shaping people’s views. Honestly, it’s a toxic word, and it should not be given a forum.
The service had the amble of a family meal, but at a restaurant of this sort, at this price point, that’s quite fine. The servers were warm and personable, which you appreciated.
Though casual as a tracksuit, Sip & Slide still pays meticulous attention to the myriad details of serious cuisine. All the ingredients are pristine. In addition to each slider’s central item, there is a notably wide and interesting palette of embellishments, mainly vegetal. They’re particularly attentive to contrasting textures and colours. Almost every slider (and the mac and cheese) has a layer of crunch. Each dish is unique and deeply thought out, informed by cheffy intelligence and an artful eye. There are outstanding flavour accents, such as wasabi mayo and hot oil, that help to make the food sing. They approach their food creation not as emulators but as innovators, which you quite admire. The prices are low – two sliders at $98, a dozen for $558.
Certainly Sip & Slide is fine for dates, but you think it would also be great with kids and pals. Unlike most restaurants that are organised by type of cuisine, this is organised by type of dish: sliders. And then it runs the gamut of cuisines. It took discernment to identify this niche. It took sharp intelligence and technical virtuosity to fill it. They’ve done so with excellence.
Rating (on a scale of 0 to 5)
Overall greatness: 4
Restaurants are intuitively rated within their particular realms. So Michelin restaurants, pizza places and stand-up sandwich joints are judged against like restaurants, not each other. A 5 for a high-end restaurant is not meant to be the same as a 5 for street food.
From my website, here’s how I rate food: “I believe the quality of a restaurant’s food is vastly more important than any other factor. Even if I love a restaurant’s food, I’m very conservative about giving out 4s or 5s. I reserve 4s for food that is uniformly excellent. Preponderantly excellent tends to get a lower score. 5s are for food that is uniformly stunning.”
This meal was comped.