They just don’t happen very often in that hustle and bustle life we live. Neither does getting my mind changed on a sandwich I had my heart set on. See, this post was supposed to be about the pastrami short rib at D’elish Sandwich shop and their BBQ and sous vide take on cured beef navel that will change your mind on the supposed domination of the sandwich genre by the great Jewish delicatessens of Los Angeles. Then a man named Eric(not to be confused with chef Fred Eric, founder of De’lish) changed my mind by getting to the bottom of my sandwich issues. For the record, D’elish sandwich shop has serious sammie game and the proof lies not only between the buns but in the hearts and minds of their staff. This cat named Eric is in the know for sandwiches as we traded barbs on bahn mi’s, hoagies that were built for travel and the fear of gluten that drives people to order a wrap. He got passed my needs to satisfy prior menu ordering victories by challenging my palate for a more complete sandwich experience. When I answered the call I found myself noshing the flavors of Southeast Asia, relinquishing beef for wild fowl, mustard for pickled daikon, potato roll for torpedo hero. Great restaurants challenge their customers while satisfying palates and bellies, De’lish is no exception, and this is why they are one of the best sandwich spots in town.
When someone says “meatball sandwich”, visions of marinara sauce, melted mozzarella and slightly oblong spheres of ground beef studded with herbs, maybe a hint of sausage, breadcrumb and parmesan pop into your head. As far as the Saigon Duck Curry Meatball goes, your experience will cross lines on a map from Vietnam with the Bahn Mi concept, to the Indian subcontinent with the duck meatballs evoking the flavor profile of Seekh kabob to Thailand with the Green Coconut Curry sauce that is both dressed on the sandwich and served on the side for dipping.
The Torpedo roll that D’elish offers isn’t nearly as crusty as the baguette found in a standard issue Bahn-Mi, but the shape of the roll ensures an even bite from start to finish. The pickled cucumbers and the basil mint are enough of a nod to the pickled daikon, carrot and cilantro that is the essence of a classic Bahn Mi. As far as the meatballs go, the texture would indicate that they are minced as opposed to coarse ground, the latter being found in your typical Italian American Meatball hero. This texture mingled with flavors of cumin and coriander from the sauce create a ground meat experience closer to what one finds in South Asian dining with their Seekh Kabob. Finally the dipping sauce is familiar territory for anyone who has ordered a green curry at a Thai restaurant; though I’m sure most of us will find the idea of using a curry sauce as a dip for a meatball sandwich a wholly new experience and a welcomed one at that.
What I admire the most about this sandwich isn’t the myriad of flavors that crosses three countries and two continents but rather that this sandwich which appear so boastful on paper, will arrive on your plate buttoned up, and well groomed, looking like James Bond arriving at a Casino bar for his first martini. Above you can see just a touch of the curry sauce on the bottom slice of bread. The flavor has been applied and it is left to you to decide when to fully dive in:
In fairness to the other hella meaty and messy meatball grinders in town, this sandwich isn’t just a deviation from the staple Italian American flavor that we come to expect but is far from a gut buster in size. And at 9 and a quarter, expecting leftovers is not entirely unheard of. But we are talkin duck meatballs and that just doesn’t come into your life often enough. So while you might be looking longingly at your last bite like I did:
You can at least cross off your weekly duck meatball fix. And how often do you get to do that?
If you are surprised by the collection of toys on the wall at D’elish you really shouldn’t be. Acclaimed chef Juan Mari Arzak, whose namesake restaurant is the holder of three Michelin stars, attests to his love of toys and the collection he keeps at his home. He explains that in order for him to remain on the cutting edge of cooking, he must try new things, as a child naturally and constantly does. Maybe you did not have duck meatballs on the brain when you woke up this morning thinking about lunch, but Chef Fred Eric did and his sandwich shop D’elish is trying something new, challenging what we come to expect from a sandwich in Los Angeles. And it is working.
D’elish Sandwich Shop
127 E 9th street
New Mart Bldg