Sandwich Spotting Los Angeles ~ the Bahn Mi @ ink.sack
Consuming a sandwich in Los Angeles can sometimes result in the eater taking an exotic vacay without ever boarding a plane. Or visiting a dining establishment so revered you feel as though you noshed at the Smithsonian. In the case of ink.sack, your next lunch gives you the added bonus of sampling the work of a culinary rock star whose accolades include being called the most talented person ever to grace the set of Top Chef. Michael Voltaggio is one of the most gifted chefs in this city, if not the country. But as I have yet to feast at this main restaurant, Ink, I cannot join in on the Voltaggio bandwagon. What I can do is brown bag this Top Chef’s skills via his sandwich shop: ink.sack and as far as that goes – I absolutely cannot wait to return.
I’m still not exactly sure why I settled on the Bahn Mi over the Spanish Godfather since I absolutely love Spanish charcuterie and rarely get to try the good stuff. I suppose somewhere, deep down in my subconscious, I wanted to see what a fancy place could do with a Bahn Mi. The Vietnamese sandwich is found in abundance throughout the San Gabriel Valley and Westminster(behind the Orange curtain) and are notoriously cheap with some spots charging as little as $2.50, but these “authentic” versions are far from the perfect. Also it is worth noting that at $6, ink.sack’s sandwiches are not gargantuan, my guess is most patrons opt for a side of chips and end their meal with one of there chocolate chip cookies that has about the same diameter as a small frisbee. Perhaps then size was also a motivation: if I wasn’t getting a footlong hoagie than three cuts of pork stacked high would become my path to fulfilling the full. It worked.
The Bahn Mi by design is a brilliant sandwich. Representing in my mind the very best that came out of the often ugly business of colonialism, the introduction of the French baguette, ham and pate to the Vietnamese staple flavors of fresh cilantro, pickled vegetables and fiery raw chile peppers was sandwich evolution of the first order. Given this history it makes sense that the sandwich continues to develop in the 21st century.
Though chicharron is not a traditional option, it works fantastically with the belly and loin of the pig. The “classic” pickled daikon and carrot topping bring the much needed acidity and crunchy texture to balance the rich meats. The fresh cilantro adds that herby zest and the Scoville units brought on by the fresh Jalapeno is absolutely essential in enjoying a good Bahn Mi. The mayonnaise is applied with restraint and the resulting “clean” finish to each bite is as refreshing a meaty sandwich can get.
The truth about dining in Los Angeles is that there are obvious trends, like the Edison bulbs in the ceiling fixture at ink.sack. What is less obvious but frankly incredibly important to the future of eating in this city is the trend of offering high end cooking in more affordable and approachable forms. Animal does it with eye popping gluttony delivered by remarkably talented chefs. Petty Cash Taqueria has one of the more talked about chefs in the city composing a menu that has been described as “stoner food”. And now we have ink.sack, where a Top Chef is offering a sandwich steal and all you are asked to do is adjust your portion control. Listen carefully Los Angeles, great food, great sandwiches, are popping up like never before – enjoy this time.