Lunar Dip – Pluto’s Restaurant, Santana Row, San Jose, CA

Pluto’s is one of those establishments with a make-your-own focus, presenting a long list of ingredients and suggesting you simply get whatever you like. They only have four sandwiches listed on the menu, one of them a weekly special. The Lunar Dip is their take on a French Dip, with grilled tri-tip in place of roast beef. The spice-rubbed beef is accompanied by horseradish mayo and provolone cheese, and it’s served on ciabatta bread with a small cup of jus.

First and foremost, I’d like to know how far one man has to wander to find an establishment willing to put more than a scattering of horseradish on a sandwich. Regular readers will recall that I have bemoaned a lack of horseradish several times, and Pluto’s appears to be another place committing that particular sin. I’m half inclined to think that this is just me, that I happen to really go wild for horseradish and I should stop holding against innocent eateries that the general public doesn’t share my predilection. But the other half of my inclination insists that the horseradish on this sandwich was genuinely scant. I’ve discussed before that while it rarely happens in real life, the platonic ideal of a sandwich includes a bit of each ingredient in every bite. Well, in this case the horseradish was absent from far more bites than for which it was present, and I struggle to accept that. “But that would be too much horseradish,” I can hear people saying. But most often what we are given is not horseradish itself but creamed horseradish or horseradish mayonnaise. And I put it to you that that is the perfect opportunity for any enterprise to tailor an even amount of horseradish, at any degree. The whole thing is wide open, and there’s really no excuse for failure.

But enough of that. Setting aside that one issue, this was a tasty sandwich. The ultimate question governing any sandwich experience is “Was it satisfying?” and I have to say that this sandwich was. The ciabatta roll had a good crust to it but not so sturdy that every bite sent the sandwich sliding all over the place. Provolone is mild and was present in a respectable amount, and the steak was well spiced and tender. The jus was warm, though not particularly flavorful in its own right. What’s more, the sandwich was a bargain. Given that it comes from Santana Row, a downtown-before-the-mall-killed-downtown upscale shopping development, a tri-tip sandwich for around six and half dollars is a good deal. Someday I’ll find a sandwich with all the horseradish my heart desires, but until that day, the Lunar Dip isn’t so bad.