I’ve been to Clementine a number of times, and I usually come away quite pleased. The sandwiches tend to be simple affairs, well executed. That’s usually enough, but the issue with a simple sandwich is that when something goes wrong, there’s little left to support what remains. Take the above. The menu promises sliced meatloaf, caramelized onions, iceberg lettuce and their ’10,000 lakes’ dressing on country white bread. That sounds like it would be just fine, but the actual sandwich I was served didn’t have much to speak of in the onion department. They weren’t completely absent, there was one bite towards the beginning that reeled me in and another towards the end that assured me I wasn’t crazy, but in between there was little of the sweetness that would have balanced the sandwich out. Without the onion, the remaining sandwich was a bit dry and altogether unbalanced, something from which few sandwiches can recover.
It occurs to me that I’ve never had a genuinely good meatloaf sandwich. I suspect that it’s simply a more difficult task than most expect, and so the general effort tends to miss the mark. That’s a shame. I think that there’s a lot of potential there, but it will have to wait for some other day, in some other sandwich shop.
I have nothing but respect for the instinct that led to the above sandwich. I’ve eaten my fair share of questionable sandwiches, and each time I’ve spent time considering how things might be improved. More often than not, there’s a simple route. The McRib is a strong example here, where it’s only natural to look at that lackadaisical wonder of pork pricing and processing and think “Some quality ingredients, a little care, and this should be easy!” This is a very understandable impulse, and as it turns out, it is also very wrong.
The Oinkster put together a big hunk of pork ribs on a bigger bun, with pickles and onions at once more plentiful than the actual McRib but still not plentiful enough. The pork was dry and a bit tough, and there was quite a bit more bun than there needed to be. It would be easy to say that they simply tried and got it wrong, but I think the issue here really is the format. After all, what’s the ideal here? Tender, pull-apart pork, to the edges or even spilling out of a soft bun, with a present but second-fiddle textural and flavor counter. In other words, a good pulled pork sandwich. No, I think this is a case where the baby ought go soon after the bathwater. The McRib is the McRib for a reason, and there’s little reward in trying to gussy it up.
The Shrimp Rich Boy is one of Mendocino Farms’ seasonal offerings, a combination of garlic marinated cajun shrimp with a meyer lemon relish aioli, bacon, their ‘krispies,’ candied jalapeño, tomatoes and shredded romaine on a soft white roll. While I could see some purists decrying a ‘take’ on the po’boy, I have no such attachment to this particular archetype and so, provided the resulting sandwich is a good one, I do not mind. And the resulting sandwich at Mendocino Farms is quite good, although it could have been better.
The krispies at Mendocino Farms stand in for fried foods, with mixed results. They’re not so pleasant on the not so fried chicken, but fit in quite well on the turkey confit sandwich I sampled. Here they’re much more towards the fitting in end of things, but they also call to mind the fact that the shrimp in the pseudo-po’boy you’re eating aren’t fried, and that the sandwich would be much better if they were. I get why Mendocino Farms doesn’t deep fry things, but that doesn’t mean they’re not missing out. The shrimp here were cold and firm, and while they were flavorful I think this sandwich would have been a real delight had they been hot and had a crunch to them.
So there was that what-could-have-been and a lopsided stuffed construction, but overall this was a fine sandwich. The candied jalapeño was a nice touch, and a nice change from the pickled and fresh that are commonplace. Mendocino Farms sometimes misses the mark but the sandwiches are never boring, and that’s enough to ensure my return.
A simple sandwich of mizuna, a peppery green a bit less assertive than arugula, pickled red onion, and ‘red miso short rib,’ which is to say beef short ribs pot-roasted with red miso. Deeper in flavor than white or yellow miso, it brings a saltiness and a rich umami flavor that would overwhelm lesser meats but pairs quite well with short ribs. The use of mizuna struck me as a bit curious, and I actually feel the stronger arugula would have been better suited to the sandwich. Was mizuna there just for the sake of being different, slightly fancier? I would have said yes, were it not for the large pile of mizuna that comes with the sandwich as a side salad. It would appear that mizuna is simply what they prefer to have on hand, and so in the sandwich it goes.
This wasn’t a bad sandwich, but I couldn’t help but feel like the short ribs deserved more. It’s almost too simple, and I think some notes of sweetness or something more spicy would have gone a long way towards perking it up.
Back to Fundamental LA, this time for something new to the menu. Gone is the short rib sandwich, and in its place is braised lamb with eggplant, arugula pesto, roasted red peppers and pickled red onion on grilled sourdough. Compared head to head the short rib is a bit more adventurous, but there are things here to enjoy. The pesto went down on both the top and bottom of the sandwich, preventing the flavor from being lost. Overall the flavors work well together, and pickled red onion with roasted red peppers is a pairing that doesn’t show up often enough.
It wasn’t without its issues. Given that the eggplant was given second billing I expected quite a bit more of it, but it’s just a few slim slices, much to the sandwich’s detriment. The lamb was a touch dry, but I imagine that’s something that varies from day to day. All in all, Fundamental LA keeps up the effort as one of the stronger places for lunch in or around Westwood, and the next time the menu gets something new I won’t hesitate to give it a go.
How’s this for fun: while waiting for an already-ordered sandwich, you see a neighborhood local walk by, point to the establishment behind you, and announce to his associates, “Food’s not great. Really good beer, but food’s not great.” Perhaps the name “Good” is less a boast and more an admission? In any case, soon enough my sandwich arrived and I was able to judge for myself.
The BLT is a simple enough sandwich, and tends to go wrong in one of two areas: too much mayonnaise or bland tomatoes. Neither problem came up here, although with the tomatoes being green and fried I couldn’t help but think they could have been much more than they were. The cornmeal breading wasn’t tremendously flavorful, which is really a shame. The BLT is such a simple sandwich you need to take advantage of every opportunity to get a really great one, and if you’re going to include some fried green tomatoes, it would be best if you didn’t simply coast on their being fried. The sandwich wasn’t bad, just not great. Let that be a lesson to me about not consulting passers by prior to my order.
I’ve put together a few kale sandwiches before, and the results were quite pleasant. Vegetables get short shrift in the sandwich world, rarely given an opportunity to stand as starring ingredients. There are plenty of reasons for that, some of them valid, but the fact remains that it need not always be that way. It’s a bit tough to make out all of what’s in there, but this sandwich consists of roasted eggplant, caramelized onions, kale sauteed in cabernet sauvignon, all on a homemade buttermilk white bread that had been spread with a bit of roasted garlic butter. That’s a short step away from a vegan sandwich, you’ll note, and switching out the butter for something like Earth Balance would hardly harm things.
Now, it’s possible that this sandwich could have been even better with something smokey and fatty. This was delicious on its own, and the world is better off with more than a handful of light, tasty, meatless sandwiches.
After having such a perplexing and dispiriting run-in with a grilled cheese at TLT Foods, I decided to see a specialist. Heywood is a grilled cheese shop (shoppe, in fact) that takes much care in sourcing their ingredients, so I figured they would also be keen on ensuring that they all ended up inside the sandwich. And sure enough, they delivered a sandwich in the standard configuration, ingredients surrounded by bread. Thank goodness.
The Italian Bleu Jeans is mozzarella, blue cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and a walnut pesto, and it is as good as that lineup reads. The mozzarella is a rich but unassertive base, and the blue cheese opens things up with a bright tang. The sun-dried tomatoes echo the tang of the blue cheese, and the pesto brings the whole thing together with nutty, herbal notes. The tomato bisque makes a fine side, and dunking the sandwich only added another layer of flavor. In short, it was everything one could ask of a grilled cheese, in both concept and execution.
Though I dearly hope that On Sandwiches stands as the home of the world’s finest sandwich discourse, there are other places on the internet that discuss sandwiches. One of them is The Dwichtorialist, a French operation that features a variety of creations that intrigue and inspire. Imagine my delight when the proprietor of that site made their way stateside and sampled a few of our wares. Everything seemed swell when Umami Burger rated a nine out of 10, but a recent post on Jack in the Box had me more than puzzled. Having tried the sirloin Swiss and grilled onion burger, The Dwitchtorialist rated it an eight out of 10.
I’ve eaten at Jack in the Box. When in the right state, I’ve even found it quite enjoyable. But eight out of 10? I had to investigate. Wouldn’t it be a delight, if Jack in the Box had a burger that was capable of standing with the best? It would, friends, but it isn’t. The burger actually isn’t bad. It suffers from the same thing that hamstrings all fast food patties thicker than average, namely having been cooked dry all the way through. There’s a mayonnaise involved to compensate, and it has a nice peppery bite to it. That’s about where the fun ends, though. The grilled onions are sparse, and fail to bring the sweet notes one would expect. The Swiss is that thin strip you see nestled below the pickles, and the taste is about as strong as the sight. Like most fast food there’s more than a little salt, and overall it..it was a fast food burger. As one would expect, I suppose, but I had my hopes up.
It seems to me that this demonstrates the limits of criticism, to a certain extent. I cannot try the Jack in the Box burger as anyone but myself, a denizen of America, a man who has eaten his fair share of American fast food. Consider it a wall of context, one which genuinely can’t be torn down. And that’s so much the pity, given that on the other side of this wall a Jack in the Box hamburger is an eight out of 10.
If you’ve got any idea what the avocado in that sandwich is supposed to be doing, you’ve got more insight into sandwiches than I do. I suppose it’s a sign when the menu promises “avocadoes,” but I figured I’d give it a shot anyway. The avocado isn’t exactly objectionable here, it’s just barely noticeable, and there are fewer sins in sandwichdom more grave than wasting an avocado.
Aside from that, the sandwich wasn’t bad. I’ve been somewhat harsh on the so-called “fast casual” sector recently, singling out The Corner and accusing them of shallow tricks designed to impress consumers they see as rubes. I’d like to make clear that I don’t see every mid-sized chain trying to upscale things the same way, and Stone Oven presents a better take on the idea. The bread is the draw, baked in the namesake oven at regular intervals, leaving a fresh, tender loaf for one’s sandwich. In went beef brisket, cheddar, chipotle mayo, onion crisps and avocado. The brisket was capably executed, though far from the heights possible. The avocado may have been lost, but the rest of the ingredients went together well and, when combined with the really good bread, made for quite the tasty sandwich. Moreover, The Corner was on a street in a city, with much better options a stone’s throw away. Stone Oven was in a mall food court, and while “Best Sandwich in a Mall Food Court” isn’t too tall a trophy, it’s a trophy nonetheless.