Simple Things has been featured at On Sandwiches a few times, and they’ve become a trusted source for a good sandwich. My point with this post isn’t about this specific sandwich, which was in fact good. (Sliced ribeye, roasted cherry tomatoes,
onion jam, arugula and chimichurri on ciabatta. A fine lineup.) My point here is to talk about chimichurri. In its simplest form nothing but parsley, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and vinegar it can be tweaked a thousand different ways. It’s delicious, and as I ate this sandwich I wondered why on earth we don’t see it more often. I can’t count the number of sandwiches I’ve seen that are meat, greens, and horseradish. That’s fine, I’ve loved more than a few of them, but surely we would be better off if the vibrant notes of chimichurri were not so hard to find. It can’t be logisitcs, chimichurri is something of a cousin to pesto and that’s everywhere, in grocery stores both freshly prepared and in lesser, shelf-stable forms. Simply put, I can think of no reason this sauce shouldn’t appear much more often than it does, and I salute Simple Things for working to change that.
It needed more horseradish. I have said that after literally every horseradish-containing sandwich I have ever had, and the prime rib sandwich from Simple Things is no exception. Let me get the bottom line out of the way: this was a tasty sandwich. Beef, greens, tomato, horseradish on crispy ciabatta is a winner, and sweet caramelized onions and horseradish are a fine pair to cap things off.
But. Needed more horseradish. It always needs more horseradish, and I’m starting to wonder how that can be. Is horseradish really an ingredient that people enjoy consuming in tepid measure? It is distinct, in the sense that anyone who goes in for it knows what they’re getting. I talk a lot about balance and harmony here and one could accuse me of promoting the opposite here, but what I’m actually advocating is the raising of horseradish to the role of starring ingredient. The lineup above describes a fine sandwich but it is also an exceptionally simple one. Why not let it stand out? Were it up to me I might triple the amount of horseradish involved, name the sandwich after it and be done with it. On Sandwiches, though, is ultimately an exploration of what sandwiches exist, not what sandwiches are possible. The prime rib at Simple Things stands as so many good-but-uninspiring sandwiches do: without enough horseradish.
Simplethings has been featured here before (twice, in fact) and I was recently delighted to find they had opened a branch in Westwood. I happened to arrive on a rather blustery day, cold for Los Angeles, and it seemed the heat of a pulled chicken sandwich was just what I needed. Friends, did this sandwich ever set me right. It’s chicken, arugula, pickled onions, garlic aioli, chevre spread,and chipotle bbq sauce on a pretzel roll. That’s a lineup that might offend some purists, but I’m trying to become less dogmatic in matters like that. So long as everyone executes as well as Simplethings, that shouldn’t be too hard. This sandwich was a delight, and I don’t know if I’ve ever had a sandwich that came together as well as this one did. Aside from the arugula nothing in particular stood out, leaving the sandwich less a series of notes and more a single, harmonious tone. Not every sandwich excels with something like that, but there’s no question this one did. It was rich, balanced, sweet but with some heat to it, and the pretzel roll brought deep flavor of its own. All in all, an excellent sandwich.
While the previous sandwich from Simplethings had flaws in both concept and execution, it was clear that someone put a lot of thought into it. I’ve long held that I hold nothing against anyone who aims high and misses their mark, and the sweet potato sandwich is a good example of that. When that’s the case, I believe the establishment bears further examination. And so we arrive at the pork philly. The city of Philadelphia may be known for its cheesesteaks, but knowledgeable enthusiasts know that Philly boasts an even better specialty: The roast pork hoagie. Traditionally, this is sliced pork roast, broccoli rabe and aged provolone. It’s a simple lineup that works extremely well together, and each establishment has their own secrets in the roast that makes their sandwich stand out from all the others.
You may have noted that this sandwich is not labeled as a roast pork hoagie, and that’s because it isn’t one. It’s roasted (shredded) pork, manchego, dijon, sautéed broccolini and garlic aioli on a michetti roll. It’s clearly inspired by the Philadelphia standby, but it carves its own path, and I’m happy to say it does to to delicious ends. The pork is juicy and rich, the broccolini crunchy and bright, the dijon and the garlic round things out with a subtlety and prevent the roll from being soaked through. This is a great sandwich, and (combined with comments from associates) it leads me to believe that the sweet potato sandwich is the abberration on the menu. There’s lots more to try at Simpethings, and I look forward to doing so.
The sweet potato sandwich at Simple Things is a pretzel roll holding grilled sweet potato, apples, jammy onions, chevre spread, avocado and cumin coleslaw. That’s a bit of an odd lineup, to my eyes, and I was curious to see if it would work. There’s nothing specifically jarring about it, it just seems a bit jumbled. The apples and the chevre fit well together, but they don’t exactly match the avocado. The avocado seems like it would go well with the cumin coleslaw, but then where does the chevre fit? It’s almost two sandwiches in one.
But enough about concept, sandwiches ultimately matter only in execution. With that in mind, this is a significantly smoother sandwich than it is on paper, but it’s far from perfect. The dominant notes in the flavor profile are the sweet potatoes, the cumin cole slaw, the avocados and the pretzel roll. That’s too bad about the roll, because it’s the breading that ultimately hamstrings the sandwich. With a fairly tough crust, the pretzel roll gave this sandwich an unacceptable level of filling creep, with large chunks of sweet potato diving from the sandwich to the plate. Sliced bread would have been my play here, something soft and yielding.
So what we’re left with is another strong example of the complexity of sandwiches. There are hazards in concept and even more in execution, and it takes a skilled hand to navigate them all and arrive at a truly excellent sandwich.