The food truck phenomenon that has swept Los Angeles, and for that matter, the country, has been the subject of both praise and criticism. Thus far, however, I have only had good experiences.
A few months ago, I received a phone call from my mother telling me that a food truck called No Reservations was on a street by our house and that I should go check it out. For those of you who don’t know me, I am an avid fan of Anthony Bourdain, who has a fantastic television show by the name of No Reservations. I therefore decided to go see if this truck had anything to do with Tony or his show (knowing that it most likely didn’t) and hoped that regardless, I would get some good food out of the whole adventure.
It turned out that the truck had absolutely no connection to Bourdain, but my disappointment was quickly countered by the menu, which boasts simply:
HOT WRAPS: $8.00
Needless to say, I was stoked. Not only that, but each wrap is comprised of interesting ingredients with a movie title for a name. In addition, I was lucky enough to stop at the truck as a new employee was trying out each wrap. As I waited for my wrap, the Good Fellas, I hovered over the array of deliciousness being lined up in front of me. The girl eventually noticed me, and the guy showing her the wraps (manager? owner?) offered me half of the Silence of the Lambs (marinated roasted leg of lamb, middle eastern rice, spaghetti squash, red pepper hummus, and pomegranate red wine sauce). I couldn’t stop myself from digging in before taking a picture (photo #3). The wrap was unbelievable…the lamb was a little well done for my tastes, but the flavor was great and complemented perfectly by the spices in the rice and the surprising texture of the spaghetti squash. Most amazing was the tanginess that the pomegranate delivered, creating an unusual flavor profile.
I finally got my wrap and headed home, where I encountered a similar experience: though every component of the wrap made sense as a complete whole, there were tastes that were surprising and different. This wrap consisted of grilled New York steak, roasted garlic potatoes, gorgonzola cheese with cracked peppercorns and red beet horseradish creme fraiche, comprising a sandwich that has not one ingredient that I wouldn’t eat in a heartbeat. In the Good Fellas, I found that the gorgonzola provided a great bridge between the classic meat and potatoes and the modern red beet horseradish creme fraiche. The creamy texture of the cheese, combined with the strength of its flavor, matched the power of the creme fraiche while evening it out to balance the heaviness of the rest of the ingredients.
All in all, I was very sad that I didn’t get to meet Anthony Bourdain, but this exciting and surprising food experience was definitely worth the disappointment.
The wrap. A sandwich variant now considered to be just as good as a sandwich, but with less carbs. This wrap, from Blue Platein Santa Monica, was good, but nothing to write home about. The California wrap was stuffed with chicken breast, avocado, jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and buttermilk ranch. This wrap looks good on paper, but in practice was rather boring. I thought about not including this sandwich for that reason, but figured it would be a good introduction to the wrap construct.
As seen before in the last sushi post, the wrap fits legitimately into the sandwich category. Using the California wrap above as an example, it is apparent that all of the sandwich components are present: main meat, fixings such as lettuce, tomatoes, and avocados, the all-important cheese, and condiments. Put all together in a tortilla or other similar casing, the wrap takes the convenience of the sandwich to a whole new level. Wraps can be eaten on the go more easily, as often only one hand is necessary, and there is little fear of ingredients falling apart or out the bottom. Though many Americans choose the wrap for health reasons, eliminating carbs, this “convenience construct” as I will call it from now on, is a truly American value. Our culture esteems convenience and ease, resulting in the etic idea that Americans are lazy (sorry everyone). The wrap, therefore, takes the sandwich and transforms it to embody our culture’s values, while taking the concept to a new level.
For those of you who have been following AOAS, I’m sure that once you saw the tacos you must have been waiting for the sushi post. Well, here it is. My brother, Ethan, is leaving for college tomorrow, so my family went to Nagao for his last family meal. Nagao is a wonderful sushi restaurant in Brentwood owned by sushi chef Nagao. My family has been going there basically since the restaurant opened, so we love to sit in Nagao’s section at the bar.
But the real question is, why does sushi qualify as a sandwich? Using the same logic that applied to the tacos, we can see that sushi can be deemed a conceptual sandwich. Let’s take the TNT roll (photo #2) as an example, since it is the most common form of sushi roll: seaweed and rice wrapped around yellowtail, smelt eggs, green onion, cucumber, and avocado. Immediately, similarities arise: the rice taking the place of the bread, the yellowtail as the main “meat” and the same fixings: cucumber, avocado, and green onion. Basically, a sushi roll is like a wrap. If you’re still skeptical, consider a handroll.
So then, how do the other sushi dishes pictured above fit in to the framework? The soybean paper roll (photo #6) follows the same idea as the TNT. As for the rest, let’s consider sandwiches from a different perspective than just the ingredients. What else makes a sandwich? Much of this answer comes from what a sandwich offers the eater: a meal that can take infinite forms, yet is simple to make and even easier to eat: no utensils required. The ease of eating, or rather, the convenience of being able to eat this type of food with your hands, is a part of why sandwiches are often the most appealing choice for a meal. This idea, that eating with your hands is the right way to eat, can also be seen in sushi. Yes, chopsticks are involved when it comes to sushi, but often, fingers are the way to go. In a similar vein, bread doesn’t always have to be the force holding the sandwich or wrap together, as seen in this post about In N Out. Therefore, photo #3, crab wrapped in tuna and halibut, can be seen as little mini wraps.
Obviously, some of these photos really are a stretch in terms of arguing that sushi is like a sandwich, but they looked so good I just had to include them.