When I left San Jose, I did so with a mournful note about leaving the bánh mì behind. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t be able to get them in LA, I noted, it was just that they wouldn’t be abundant. My early experience living in Southern California has borne that out, but it isn’t as if the place is a wasteland. Los Angeles has its own specialties, things that seem to appear on more menus than not. Pastrami is one of them, and brisket is another.
It’s brisket that fills the Brentwood sandwich at Roast Deli and Market. Tender, falling-apart slices of beef brisket join coleslaw, russian dressing and spicy mustard on Bavarian rye bread. That’s a fine lineup, and in concept I find very little with which to quibble. In execution, though, there are a few things that could have used some improvement. The mustard could have been spicier, but that’s some matter of taste and in any event a small matter. A bigger issue is the coleslaw.
With the brisket so delightfully soft in texture, the coleslaw plays a vital role in the sandwich. It offers contrast in texture, something with a bit of crunch to it to load the front of the bite, yielding then to the rich meat. It’s a simple but effective setup, but where Roast goes wrong is in mincing their coleslaw. It’s tough to make out in the photo, but there’s much too fine a dice on the coleslaw, leaving no substantial snap to offer contrast. And that’s too bad, because this could have been a very fine sandwich. The meat is juicy, the other flavors are well-balanced and highlight the meat, but ultimately the error in execution results in a disappointing sandwich.