Not quite Dip Week!©
Simply because we ended the Dip Week!© portion of Summer of Sandwich in Chinatown, this is a lead-in entry: while in Chinatown, we ended up getting three sandwiches from three distinct sandwich places, with only one being of the dipped variety.
Q: Why did we get three (!) sandwiches in Chinatown?
A: Ask Jake.
Also, on the recent recommendation of a poet friend, I’ve been flipping through Borges stories for the first time in years (and, too, Barry Hannah—not a recommendation, to be clear; I got to go to my office for the first time in months and raided my at-work titles at half-random. Barry Hannah: doesn’t really stand up so far). Borges: wow, what a bizarre author. You know this. He rarely plots. He doesn’t develop character. Tone is muted. He rarely has action/sequenced events. Mostly he has bizarre situations and/or people talking (and referencing, and referencing, and referencing)—and, of course, thinking. All arranged in his strange little mental box-game-mazes. That’s not a criticism—Borges is cool. My relative liking of Borges stories has always had more to do with my mood than with the stories—they’re all basically good, and strange, and singular. While they reference other works and thinkers, they don’t really exist in stylistic conversation with other works. They are, on a prose level (I’m reading in translation), very tautly written, if not particularly musical. So…strange and unique…but maybe limited to your patience for revelation. (Revelation: it can get old fast.)
My favorite of the week is a co-favorite: first, “Averroës’s Search,” which takes us into an afternoon and evening with an 11th century Spanish philosopher who gets into quasi-arguments with thoughtful friends about how metaphors, rather than becoming old and dusty, actually gather meaning over time, giving them depth and complexity…and then the story ends with a beautiful Nabokovian authorial turn inward that’s, to me, sort of breathtaking. (I’m one of those terrible writers who loves writing about writing.) Second co-fave: “The House of Asterion.” This story! It’s basically a first-person confessional from a thoughtful madman talking about being locked in his amazing mansion that every now and then people enter for unknown reasons. What does he do? Slaughters them, of course. There’s a twist at the end that I wish there weren’t, as it adds logic to the illogic and robs the singular bizarre strangeness of Asterion: the story becomes clear rather than imbalanced.
Why do other people like Borges? I think this is a question we ought to consider more.
(Thanks, Jared, though I know you’re not reading this.)
Okay then. Chinatown sandwiches, non-Dip Week!© edition:
Saturday August 7:
Katsu Sando, 736 N Broadway, Los Angeles
Little Jewel, 207 Ord St, Los Angeles
We didn’t really want to eat three sandwiches but we got stuck waiting in basically a sandwich hall featuring, along with Katsu Sando, the Chinatown location for Wax Paper—with different NPR personalities than Frogtown!—and L.A. Brisket, which has its sandwiches named for LA freeways (well done); they looked damn good, but we had a firm plan: a dip and a sando.
(Also: there’s a sandwich hall in Chinatown.)
In it, as we were waiting for our chicken katsu sando ($11.50), our newest entry into the chicken sandwich wars, we wondered: Where would we actually eat this thing? No tables or chairs in the sandwich hall, and we suspected that our next iconic dip stop would be flooded with breathers, so we didn’t want to eat there; there’s always the Far East Market, but we figured it, too, was overrun (with Howlin’ Rays lunatics; also, we miss Chego). After our sando was handed over, we walked toward our next stop, bag in hand, uncertain where we’d actually eat…and we passed another little sandwich place with six nicely shaded outdoor tables. We looked up at the name and recognized it because it’d been suggested to us all the way back in May by brother Josh. Yeah, good fortune! We decided to split up: I headed on to stop #2 to get our Dip Week!© entry and Vieve paused, ordering a sandwich at the fortuitous place, grabbing us a table, too.
This place: The Little Jewel of New Orleans. How great is a New Orleans sandwich shop in Chinatown? Very great! Little Jewel has on its menu, no joke, THIRTY-THREE po’ boys, from oyster and shrimp and chicken classics to oddities like the French Fry po’ boy and a double veggieburger po’ boy. Our first po’ boy of sandwich summer! We went with a classic, the Crescent City Fried Shrimp Po’ Boy ($14.99), with shredded cabbage, red onion, pickle, tomato, and hot sauce on a soft po’ boy roll (we went sans mayo). This thing was huge! (Half is still in our fridge. Hungry?)
Folx: po’ boys are sort of bomb—certainly, at least, the fried protein variety. The rest of the sandwich is classic American submarine, so if the bread is good enough, which Little Jewel’s is (po’ boy bread is intentionally softer than a French roll; something to do with the humidity of New Orleans and not being able to bake with wheat flour so much)—anyway, the bread and basic dressing all forms a perfectly reasonable base for any sub. Then, bang, fried shrimp. The batter on the Little Jewel shrimp was heavily spiced but not too heavily battered—which, to both, yes. And this fried shrimp brings something to the table we haven’t seen this summer: a beautiful crackling texture with every bite.
- Overall Balance/Taste: +1 point
- Quality of Ingredients: +1
- Bread: 0
- X-factor: Po’ Boys!: +1
Overall: +3 points, or a perfectly tasty Pat’s Philly Cheesesteak (wit)
Admission: We actually ate our Katsu Sando (chicken) before the po’ boy. If you know sandwiches in LA, you know that Katsu is a pretty famous player in our sandwich scene. It’s a Japanese-styled chicken sandwich, katsu being a panko coating that’s supposed to (and does, here, very well) keep the protein juicy. A new sandwich place has to be strange, of course, and Katsu’s oddness is that its sandwiches are served on house-made milk-bread cut into Texas toast slices (Texas meaning: bigger). Otherwise, the sando has a pickled veg thing going on similar to what you find on other Asian-style chicken sandwiches (see Holdaak; see Bolo). And, too, the sauce that comes on the side, which they call OMG, meaning oh my gochujang…which here we are again getting into historical colonialism. Should the OMG sauce be served at the bottom of a well? And you fall into it, getting caught, peering up at a ring of light that might be existence and might be dread and might be both? Is someone stalking cats? Are you playing bingo? Sorry. Anyway: Katsu’s other oddness is that they don’t have a spicy version of their sandos, and that’s unfortunate, because sweet-leaning sandwiches seem to us a bit one-note, lacking the complexity that balances the sweetness; heat, after all, has the magical ability of making you urgently need to take the next bite—it’s saltwater for castaways. Drink me.
This was a good sandwich, to be clear. Just not our favorite in the chix category.
- Overall Balance/Taste: +1 point
- Quality of Ingredients: +1
- Bread: 0
- X-factor: next door to the superior Wax Paper: -1
Overall: +1 points, or a standard PB&J