Banh Mi at Ink.Sack, Chile Rellenos at Loteria

Let me tell you about this sandwich that I ate at Ink.Sack, Michael Voltaggio’s sandwich shop on Melrose. It’s a Banh Mi, which if you haven’t had one (and I had my first one on Calvin Trillin’s walking tour of Chinatown many moons ago) it’s a sandwich, served on a baguette, usually made with pork pâté , pork sausage, pickled vegetables (carrots, daikon), mayonnaise, chili sauce and lots of cilantro.

At Ink.Sack, the banh mi is made (according to the menu) with pork butt, pork belly, pickled vegetables and–the element that makes the sandwich truly extraordinary–chicharrónes. That would be fried pork skin. It’s what you see resting on the sandwich in the lead picture and it’s what gives everything a magical crunch.

The sandwiches at Ink.Sack are small so if you’re going for lunch, you should probably order two. I also ordered a spicy tuna sandwich with miso-cured albcaore and Sriracha mayo:


This is a very good tuna sandwich, transformed not only by the Sriracha and the miso but by strips of nori that give everything a briny taste. Also: note the purple heirloom tomatoes inside the sandwich. That’s an elegant touch.

If you’re a fan of “Top Chef” and want a quick taste of Michael Voltaggio cookery, pop into Ink.Sack. I’m saving the flagship, Ink, for a special occasion.

So there’s one more thing I want to tell you about before I go. That’s the chile rellenos at Loteria:


Now I’m getting the impression, from the L.A. food folk that I meet, that there’s nothing cool about saying that I love Loteria at the Farmer’s Market. It’s as if I’m saying that my favorite coffee comes from Starbucks.

But I think these people are off their rockers–I’ve been eating Mexican food all over L.A., and the Mexican food that I’ve had at Loteria is still some of the best. When you eat there, you watch them press fresh tortillas right before your eyes. Their sauces–like their Pipián or their mole–are rich and complex and, to my tastebuds, deeply authentic.

The earth shifted, though, when I tried their Chile Rellenos. I’m not sure what I was expecting: a typical green chile stuffed with cheese? That’s not what you get at all. Instead you get an ancho chile filled with black beans, goat cheese and chorizo; and a poblano chile filled with plantains and queso fresco. On the side is an amazing concoction called Picadillo which is made of ground meat and tomatoes and, from what I could detect, raisins. I couldn’t stop eating it.

The whole thing was so special, I’d easily put it on my short list of favorite things I’ve eaten in L.A. so far. Next time you’re visiting, ignore the naysayers and visit Loteria. It’s Mexican food at its best.

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