This week’s recommendations are shining examples of why I’ll never tire of eating around Los Angeles. The first is a buzzy transplant from Boston, and the second is a neighborhood Mexican restaurant in South Gate, where the huaraches and chile relleno are powerfully good.
Warm lobster roll from Saltie Girl
The most decadent sandwich in Los Angeles may be the warm lobster roll from Saltie Girl, the Boston seafood restaurant that recently opened on Sunset Boulevard. This is not a town known for its seafood sandwiches. Towers of pastrami, yes. A stellar Italian sub, absolutely. But rolls brimming with chunks of hot lobster? Not so much. At Saltie Girl, you won’t go more than a few minutes without spying a server whisking an order to a nearby table.
“We always wanted to make sure our lobster roll was a showstopper,” chef Kyle McClelland said on a recent call. The New England native grew up going to clam shacks and lobster restaurants, where an abundance of fresh seafood was always available. “There were certain places I used to go on the Cape and they would give you like two whole lobsters in the roll. We really wanted to showcase that.”
McClelland’s roll is built on fresh lobster from Maine, buttery rolls flown in from Massachusetts, and lots and lots of European butter. There’s a heap of lobster, with chunks spilling up and out from the split roll, shiny with what might be more than a couple of tablespoons of butter per sandwich.
“You’re getting butter all over the place,” he said.
There’s the lobster butter he uses to poach the lobster. The butter he brushes onto the roll and the butter he cooks the bread in. And the butter in the butter sauce, poured onto the butter-poached lobster.
This week’s recommendations include what might be the best chicken wings in L.A., and a drive to Simi Valley for BBQ.
The meat is sweet and tender, lavishly dressed in the butter sauce. The roll is more like challah than brioche, rich, soft and just a tad sweet. The chips on the side are enormous, gossamer petals of potato dusted with malt vinegar powder. They are so thin and crisp they practically dissolve on your tongue. Each roll comes with an entire cylinder full, but there never seems to be enough. Whoever doesn’t order the lobster roll at the table will inevitably steal a few or more. McClelland said they bag them at the location in Boston. I hope they follow suit in Los Angeles.
The sandwich conjures an instant seaside breeze on your cheeks and the smell of the ocean. The particular combination of lobster, butter and bread defies geography. But as soon as you wipe the last of the melted butter from your lips, the illusion is gone. You are in the old Wahlburgers space on Sunset Boulevard where Mark Wahlberg and his two brothers once opened a burger restaurant. Halfway through dinner an Oscar-winning actress walked through the door. And near the end of my meal, the woman at the next table leaned over to ask if I was a stylist. This is definitely Los Angeles.
Chicharron huarache from Tacos DF
The huaraches at Tacos DF are the heavyweight champs of the genre, with the heft and size of a medium delivery pizza and what seems like a full bowl of beans sandwiched between the masa. While others more closely resemble the narrow oblong shape of the shoes they are named for, the huaraches here are broader, the equivalent of my dad’s extra-wide New Balance. The many I’ve tried throughout Mexico City could be classified as a snack. The Tacos DF huarache is a meal.
This week’s recommendations include three wildly different, satisfying tacos, including birria in the San Fernando Valley, Indonesian-inspired tacos in Echo Park and seafood tacos in downtown Los Angeles.
Stuffed with beans then flattened into a quarter-inch thick disc, the masa is cooked on both sides until it’s almost crisp, like a giant sope topped with any protein you like. I prefer the chicharron, with lots of diced onion and cilantro and dredged in enough salsa to transform the pork into something that more resembles crumbles of soft chorizo. It’s finished with plenty of queso fresco and both a fiery red and a green salsa so piquant it’s almost electric.
I’ve seen people use a fork and knife to cut strips of the masa. Some use their hands to tear away big pieces. I like to pick up the entire thing and eat it like a giant slice of pizza. It lasts longer that way.
Where to eat now
Saltie Girl, 8615 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, www.saltiegirl.com
Tacos DF, 3342 Tweedy Blvd., South Gate, (323) 564-3221, tacosdf.com
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