This summer, Angelo Sosa is all about sandwiches. The former Jean-Georges Vongerichten protégée is entering the bánh m–Num Pang arena with Xie Xie (pronounced “shay shay”). It’s the first of the chef’s planned chain of pan-Asian sandwich shops serving two-handers like the signature Cha Ca La Vong: turmeric-coated tilapia topped with cilantro, dill and caramelized onions. Taking a breather from prepping his restaurants (the Hell’s Kitchen outpost [645A 9th Ave., at W. 45th St.] is slated for early June; a St. Marks Place location [32 St. Marks Pl., betw. 2nd & 3rd Aves.] will open in late summer), Sosa spoke with Josh Bernstein about why his sandwiches are like Mike Tyson, his love of burned meat and how he’ll get his tan this summer.
Define Xie Xie.
In Mandarin, Xie Xie, means “thank you.” In any language, that’s the simplest and most important word to learn when traveling. But there’s Asian blood in my DNA—Asia resonates with me.
Cumulatively, I’ve spent almost a year traveling across Thailand, Hong Kong and Vietnam, just absorbing the flavors. I thought I had a good grasp on Asian flavors, but it wasn’t until I got to Asia that my eyes opened.
How does this inform Xie Xie?
I worked for Jean-Georges for four and a half years, and I worked with Alain Ducasse, so basically I have a four-star background. I’m bringing the four-star philosophy to my sandwiches, minus the froufrou-ness.
How do your sandwiches differ from bánh m?
Bánh m are identical, except the protein is different. We’re a chef-driven concept offering distinct sandwiches with accessible, elementary flavors; our most exotic ingredients are cilantro or Japanese mayonnaise.
Tell us about some sandwiches.
Our French dip is Vietnamese flank steak dunked into lemongrass broth, while our Maine lobster has dill, tarragon, pickled and crispy shallots served on a warm hot dog bun. The flavors are pounding—like getting into the ring with Mike Tyson.
Describe summertime New York in a single sentence.
I think it’s dreadful and stinks like a fish market.
Where do you usually spend the summer?
I go home to Durham, Connecticut, where I chill out. I’m a very simple person. I’m very big into burning things. I love burned meat.
Any summertime plans?
Just getting Xie Xie going. This summer, my tan will come from the stove.