Pandemic-paused Chi Spacca chef is now slinging sandwiches in a medical building
What to eat this week: Sandwiches from a medical office in Yorba Linda, an over-the-top Hawaiian burger with gravy and Korean bakery treats.
Sandwiches at Perking House Coffee
I’ve found some delicious food in unusual places: Pork buns in a sporting goods store parking lot in Arcadia, crab fried rice in a Thai Buddhist temple parking lot, and now, excellent sandwiches made by one of the most lauded chefs in Los Angeles, in a medical offices building in Yorba Linda. Insert the sound of a car screeching to a halt here.
After Ryan DeNicola was furloughed from his job as chef at Chi Spacca on Melrose Avenue in 2020, he started consulting and catering. When his father’s medical group moved into the Yorba Linda Packing House in Orange County, DeNicola decided to open a small coffee stand in the lobby. Downstairs, past the arcade games and what looks like a child’s daycare center (it’s a nontraditional medical office waiting area void of medical journals and wrinkled magazines), there’s a tiny stand called Perking House Coffee selling La Colombe coffee and DeNicola’s sandwiches.
He makes six varieties, including a weekly special, all served on soft Amoroso’s rolls. The pork sandwich is his take on the roasted pork and broccoli rabe you’ll find in Philadelphia. He marinates the meat in achiote and grapefruit he grows in his backyard. After three days, he slow-roasts the pork, slices it paper-thin and adds scallions. The meat acts like a sponge in the marinade, soaking up the citrus and the sweet, nutty chile. He layers a respectable amount onto the sandwich and serves it with a giardiniera made from pickled cauliflower, celery, peppers and an oregano vinaigrette. If you let the sandwich get to room temperature, the flavors settle and intensify.
DeNicola’s tuna is green and herbaceous, mixed with chervil, dill, tarragon and cilantro. He marinates his roast beef with a blend of dried morita and ancho chiles, roasts it low and slow like the pork, and layers it with provolone and some nostril-singing horseradish mayo. These are the kinds of well-made, thoughtfully structured sandwiches that make me long for a summer picnic.
Sweets from Mil bakery
The slices of ssuk pound cake at pastry chef Jiyoon Jang’s new bakery look like a Rorschach test. In a recent slice, I could see a portrait of my afternoon: pound cake, a steaming mug of tea and about 38 minutes devoted to googling the medicinal properties of ssuk. The green herb is also called mugwort or wormwood, and I found countless recipes for tea and steamed rice cakes. Some claim it can help alleviate anything from a fever to digestion issues to menstrual cramps. I can’t speak to any of that, but it was excellent in Jang’s pound cake.
Jang is selling her sweets from a counter at All Good Things, a kitchen and retail space housing multiple dining concepts in Koreatown.
Each slice of her pound cake is full of the pungent green herb. It takes on a deep, almost blackish emerald color in the cake, swirling and spreading over most of the surface. Its pleasant, bitter earthiness threads through the rich, dense cake, helping balance the sweetness and giving it an almost grassy flavor.
Equally satisfying are the miso-garu cookies, blanketed in roasted white sesame seeds and crunchy Demerara sugar. It’s like a salty Snickerdoodle with cereal-milk vibes. Imagine the perfect cookie, delicately crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle. This is that cookie, bolstered with the salty umami of miso and misugaru, a Korean grain powder commonly mixed with water or milk to make a drink.
Burger from All Good Things
Located across from Jang’s Mil bakery counter is a kiosk where you can order food from the All Good Things kitchen. It’s a Hawaiian-leaning menu with garlic shrimp over rice and plates of loco moco. It’s also home to something called the Hawaiian double smash burger.
There is no shortage of smash burgers in Los Angeles. They come in all shapes and sizes, smeared and dripping with pink sauce, stacked with crispy patties and oozing slices of American cheese. The Hawaiian version stands apart, mostly for the thickness of the Wagyu meat, a crown of Spam and a plastic foam cup of gravy.
The burger seems to glisten from all sides and surfaces. The brioche bun is toasted and slick with what I imagine is butter. The Spam, protruding out of one side like a fat tongue, glistens in its own fat. The cheese shines as it cascades down the meat patties. Only once you take the first bite do you notice the chopped onion, the squirts of ketchup and mustard, the diced green onion and a shake of furikake. There is no need for the cup of gravy, but you find yourself dunking the burger into the rich sauce anyway; yet another glistening brown element to add to your lunch equation. It’s decadent and over the top. It will be difficult to dwell on anything else for the rest of the day.
Perking Coffee House, 18200 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda
Mil Bakery, 2748 W. 8th St., Los Angeles
All Good Things, 2748 W. 8th St., Los Angeles
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