Bargain, Balanced, Ballin': 9 Croque Monsieurs For All Budgets

By Sophie Steiner, January 28, 2021

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Bargain, Balanced, Ballin’ is where we take a deep dive into a certain dish or food fad, one by one, creating a guide for where to sample the best (and sometimes worst) of them, all around the city and for any and every budget.

The croque monsieur can trace its origins back to Paris in the early 1900s, where it was served up as a quick bar snack. A simple layer of ham and Emmental or Gruyère cheese is nestled between two brioche-like pieces of bread before being topped with another layer of grated cheese and baked or fried. 

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Deriving from the verb croquer (to crunch), this sando must have that signature crunch that only comes from toasting or frying. Taking it a step further, a croque monsieur graduates to a croque madame with the addition of a sunnyside-up or poached egg, making it a more substantial meal. The runny yolk creates a sauce of sorts, bringing the level of savory up to a 10. 

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From there, there are numerous other twists, like the Croque Provençal – with the addition of tomato – to the Croque Norvégien – swapping out the ham for smoked salmon. When a regular Croque Monsieur is dipped in egg batter and fried in butter, you’ve got yourself a Monte Cristo. 

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This once pedestrian sandwich has now found its way onto gourmet menus from Paris to Buenos Aires to Shanghai. Having tried the most classic, the most lux and the slightly avant-garde, here’s what Shanghai is dishing out on the croque scene.

Bargain

Dodu – RMB48 for Monsieur, RMB58 for Madame

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The hefty Croque Madame at Dodu comes with an unexpected yet well received slather of tangy mustard that cuts through the richness of a dense layer of Emmental cheesy goodness melted on top. Cutting calories? A croque of any kind probably isn’t for you then, but if you’ve gotta do it, the croque monsieur goes for just RMB48 – that’s easily a full meal for under 50 rambos. 

Alimentari – RMB60

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Alimentari nails it at positioning itself in that perfect sweet spot between casual drinking, European-style snacking and friendly chilling at any time of the day or night. As a mainstay when it comes to European comfort food, it’s no surprise that their Truffled Croque Monsieur – layers of salty Praga ham cushioned between a thick gooey mass of fontina cheese and creamy béchamel – hits the highest of brunch notes. The hint of musky garlic from the truffle kicks this panini-like sandwich up a notch. 

Cellar to Table – RMB65

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Perfect symmetry in edible form is brought by everyone’s new favorite wine bar, Cellar to Table. The Croque Madame sees thinly sliced Parma ham enfolded in a generous coating of melted Comté cheese that adds a nutty, caramelized butter dimension to the more manageably portioned sandwich. A perfectly round confit egg perches atop the evenly toasted bread, waiting to be broken open and spread its gooey innards into a sauce across your plate. 

Le Café des Stagiaires Part I – RMB68 for Monsieur, RMB78 for Madame

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The double decker Croque Madame at Le Café des Stagiaires is worth sacrificing your waistline for. Buttery Emmental cheese oozes between the layers of white ham, homemade béchamel sauce and crispy quinoa bread, a heartier alternative that will bring us back again. An expertly fried egg is placed on top, ready to be sliced for that perfect yolk porn ooze we all crave to see. Served with a side salad and fries, this sando requires a post-lunch nap.  

Balanced 

Heat – RMB80

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Crush an entire day’s worth of calories in one sitting with Heat’s monster of a Croque Madame. Thick sourdough bread is loaded up with mozzarella cheese, shredded rotisserie chicken (roasted on a spit in house), Parma ham and béchamel sauce before being topped with a poached egg. The salad served on the side ticks the box for your daily dose of greens. 

Blaz– RMB88

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Pure gluttony comes in the form of the Croque Madame at Blaz, a brick of a sammy with alternating layers of Parisian ham, gooey cheese and truffle béchamel, all hugged between too airily light pieces of toasted bread. Compared to most others on the list, the portion size is no joke, so make sure to bring a friend or prepare to unbutton your pants in public. 

Coquille – RMB88

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Like a croque monsieur and Croque Madame combo, the Coquille version of this Parisian classic is served in two parts. Both have a hefty layer of French ham, Gruyère, mustard and béchamel, but the larger piece is topped with a blanket-sized Japanese fried egg – a warm, luscious coating for an already über-indulgent morsel.

Ballin’

Polux – RMB110

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Ball so hard with Polux’s Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame, a souped-up version that sports two kinds of ham – Paris white and serrano – and three kinds of cheese – raclette, parmesan and mozzarella – for the ultimate bite. The madame sees the addition of an 80-degree sous vide egg for that extra hit of artery clogging goodness. Cut through the fat with the bright vinaigrette-coated butter lettuce served on the side.

Le Café des Stagiaires Part II – RMB168

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The biggest sandwich we’ve ever seen – in any form – comes as the XXL Croque Monsieur at Le Café des Stagiaires. This king-size version of their already signature dish sees an entire loaf of bread sliced vertically rather than horizontally, resulting in a 35cm x 13cm beast of a croque. Hefty layers of white ham, pungent Emmental cheese and creamy béchamel sauce sit between two thinly sliced pieces of toasted white bread, smothered generously in an extra dose of melted cheese. Served with a salad and fries, this meal MUST be consumed with friends. 


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[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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