The sandwiches at BCN, a Catalan street food restaurant in West Hollywood, are not called bikinis because they're thin. The name comes from the Bikini Concert Hall in Barcelona, where vendors have been selling pressed ham and cheese sandwiches to late-night revelers and concert-goers for years.
BCN partner Jaime Pi Anfruns misses the bikinis, and all the flavors of Spain, but when he decided to open a restaurant in L.A., he wanted to do something different.
"Most Spanish places here have paella and tapas, but if you don't have the right ingredients, it's not the same thing," said Pi Anfruns. "Bikinis are such a common sandwich there, but we are doing variations using California products mixed with ingredients from Spain."
The result? The Serrano ham, Manchego, portobello and truffle aioli bikini, which comes enclosed in brown parchment paper that you unwrap like a present.
When you take a bite, the sandwich crackles, then gives way to a soft, gooey melted center. The stringy cheese is sharp and nutty, the ham just salty enough and the wafer-like slices of portobello give the sandwich a nice, round richness. The truffle aioli is subtle, but there, lingering over the ham, cheese and mushroom, without overpowering them.
You could probably eat three bikinis, but instead, you polish off an order of patatas bravas and maybe a rose sugar butter cookie or two for dessert. And then there's chef Paul Barbosa's braised short rib, bravas sauce, Mahon cheese, fennel and aioli bocata (baguette sandwich); and jamon, manchego and chive coque (flatbread), you promise yourself you'll try next time.
8719 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 358-9698, www.eatdrinkbcn.com/ .
I'm a sandwich monster. Follow me on Twitter @Jenn_Harris_