Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Meat and Bread

Sandwiches are sandwiches, but of course some are better than others. At the shitty end of the spectrum is, as you might imagine, Subway. I hate Subway. I can’t stand the weird toppings, as if anyone really wants canned black olives on a sandwich, and I hate Jared and his weird smirking fish face, and I hate the bread that smells like elementary school cafeteria bread, and I hate how fucking cheap those dickwads are, suspiciously dispensing ONE FUCKING NAPKIN to you with your sandwich purchase, as if the profit-and-loss statement of a Subway franchise rests solely on the price of paper. Then again, you know what they say about sandwiches: like a night with your mom, if you only need one napkin afterwards, it wasn’t worth it anyway.

Subway’s sandwiches are most assuredly NOT as sloppy as your mom. Subway’s legendary stinginess isn’t restricted solely to its ungenerous napkin policy: the ham is sliced seemingly by laser into paper-thin sheaves precisely one pig muscle cell thick. You might think that thinly sliced meat isn’t a bad thing: thinly sliced meat is a hallmark of a great sandwich, because no one wants a big thick slab of pork leg, looking pink and sweaty and strangely iridescent, protruding obscenely from the side of one’s sandwich. But thin slices only work if you put MORE THAN ONE FUCKING PIECE OF HAM ON THE FUCKING BREAD. And that, of course, is exactly what Subway’s cheapskate corporate overlords order their sad minimum-wagers to do: one transparent, surgically dissected slice of ham on an enormous loaf of bread that’s way too yeasty smelling for its own good.

At the OTHER end of the sandwich shop continuum, however: is Vancouver’s Meat and Bread. As the name might indicate, it’s a minimalist sandwich shop, though the minimalism applies pretty much only to the décor. Napkins are always abundant and free, and good thing, too: these sandwiches are sloppy as fuck.

A meatball sub ($9, and all prices here are listed in Canadian dollars. Because it’s Canadia, remember?) featured the kind of meatballs that everybody claims their Italian grandmother makes but nobody’s actually does. And I know: my grandmother was Sicilian and her meatballs were a study in granular globes of ground beef, cooked into desiccated golf balls, and splashed in a crimson Ragu bloodbath. But the meatballs on this sandwich were intense: silken and luscious inside, they were more like spherical terrines. Seriously, these meatballs were so delicious I wish I could cut open my scrotum and replace my testicles with these meatballs. Then I would finally be a real man. The meatballs were doused in an unapologetically spicy marinara and topped with a few melted shreds of grana. The menu promised gremolata but I think they were lying.

The most vaunted sandwich on Meat and Bread’s menu is the porchetta ($9). When the chick working at the counter told us it was their most popular sandwich, she wasn’t lying: there were only two of these left to purchase, but I resisted the impish urge to buy both. I’m actually glad I didn’t because the porchetta was a bit of a letdown. I expected the pork to be unctuous and intensely seasoned, like any good porchetta, but it was actually dry and bland, though the fennel seed flavor was at least apparent. Rather than slice the porchetta into thin sheets, so that each sandwich becomes a dense pile of meaty pinwheels suitable for Prince Meatyass, they instead chose to dice the porchetta into a porky gravel pile. The skin was crisp. Finely diced and tossed in with the meat, it was like a crouton of sorts. The salsa verde was a dizzying, lush green and had just enough acid.

The special of the day was a roast beef sandwich ($9.5). While it was more of a shredded pot roast than a proper English roast beef, I’ll forgive them because they’re Canadian and since they can’t even get bacon right, how could they possibly master roast beef? Still, the “roast beef” was superb. The meat was as tender as a child cuddling a puppy, and it was studded with a lot of black pepper. A little bird’s nest of red cabbage slaw contributed the requisite crunch. And a smear of shallot jam managed to walk the edge, like a snail crawling across a razor blade, between sweet and savory. This sandwich was a master’s thesis in sandwichology. The bread itself, curiously, was the same across the board for all the sandwiches: small neat rectangular loaves with an open, bubbly crumb, sort of like mini ciabatta, but not quite.

Meat and Bread is solid as fuck. We were befuddled by the fancy Canadian credit card reader which taunts you with a fake rail on the side of it, along which you think you must slide your card, but SURPRISE STUPID AMERICAN! you have to stick your card into the bottom of the thingy. The waitress noticed our card reader confusion, then asked if we were from the USA. When we admitted that yes, we were visiting from Seattle, she cheerfully informed me that Meat and Bread is coming to Capitol Hill’s Central Agency Building in March. Finally, Canada is paying us back for inflicting the Crash Test Dummies and Mike Myers and ketchup flavored potato chips upon America. U! S! A! U! S! A!

Rating: 8.5 Canadian dollars out of 10

Meat and Bread is located in Canada. Unless you are planning to go to Canada, you don’t need to know the address.

Meat & Bread on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 09, 2015


I have two major problems with Tallulah’s, the first one being that the mid-century décor in no way matches the menu. It seems like they put a lot of effort in giving the dining room the feel of a suburban 1970’s ranch house, though noticeably missing was shag carpeting, and I also sincerely doubt that the wait staff are sporting the requisite, period appropriate, giant teddy bear tumbleweed pubes. One would logically expect the menu to feature classic midcentury dishes like gelatin salads, Steak Diane, Crepes Suzette, or Baked Alaska, and a bar menu that includes Harvey Wallbangers, Grasshoppers, and Pink Squirrels. People love Mad Men shit; mostly because everyone loves the idea of getting shitfaced at work and fucking a secretary, so why not capitalize on it?

But of course the menu is nothing like that: instead, it’s a very Matt Dillonesque flirtation with middle eastern flavors, with shit like walnut muhammara ($5) and red pepper hummus ($5) and grilled halloumi cheese with grapefruit and fennel ($12). We skipped that stuff because we’d just eaten at London Plane and everyone bitched at me about it.

Instead we started with baby beets and goat yogurt ($6). A motley collection of red, yellow, and pink beets, plated awkwardly, root side up, so that it looked like the minarets of the Kremlin, only made of beets. There was a tangy slick of yogurt beneath these. Despite the strange presentation, the beets were sweet and seasoned well, soft and crimson like an infant’s still-beating heart; the yogurt efficiently cock blocked the beets’ almost cloying sweetness.

A pick from the happy hour menu, grilled chicken wings with harissa ($6) was a pretty good deal, because for this price we got six chicken wings, grilled and tossed in a spicy harissa marinade. These were mostly good, but the “drumette” part of the wing, AKA the chicken’s bicep, was missing, with only the “forearm” part of the wing and the wing tips served. Plus, the skin was flabby and swayed loosely in the breeze like your mom’s upper arm, but on the other hand the meat was succulent like your mom at a Michael Buble concert, and the sauce had a defiant backbone of sour and spicy harissa paste. The wings were definitely not a slam dunk, though they weren’t terrible: let’s call this one a push.

Brussels sprouts with apples and hazelnuts ($6) were okay. The sprouts were halved and obviously pan roasted, caramelized as fuck on the cut surfaces, and the apples and hazelnuts were great textural additions, but in general the sprouts had that farty smell lingering about them, like brussels sprouts you were force fed by your mom as a kid. Now, however, the tables are turned: I force your mom to eat things all the time, and I assure you it’s not brussels sprouts.

A wild mushroom, chevre, and aged sherry vinegar flatbread ($11) was generally tasty, with a bubbly crust and lots and lots of sautéed mushrooms on top, but chevre always pisses me off: it’s just one rung above cottage cheese in the bland fucking boring cheese hierarchy. If you want to use goat cheese, how about one with some balls, like goat’s milk feta or a bleu goat cheese.

Lamb burger with zucchini, harissa, and fries ($14), on the other hand, was masterful: a succulent patty of ground lamb was seared ruthlessly on the outside, while still remaining a confident medium rare inside. This was topped with a mandolined ribbon of zucchini, which was as unlikely a condiment as it was tasty, serving as a cooling counterpoint to the harissa, once again used with restraint. The fries were quite salty, but not in a bad way, and very crisp.

We didn’t get dessert, which brings me to the SECOND problem I had with Tallulah’s: the bartender, hereafter referred to as Oblivia Wilde, fucking sucked. We sat at the bar to eat, and it was like an act of Congress to get the chick to get us a drink. And when she eventually DID bring our drinks, they sucked. The house made rootbeer ($5) was fucking gross as fuck. It was a cloudy and opaque brown, like they used too much sarsaparilla, or birch, or something. The classic flavors of wintergreen and vanilla were sadly lacking, and it was bitter, and so grainy it actually clogged the straw when I tried to sip it!

I was sad like a kid whose ice cream fell on the ground when I drank this stuff. I mean, COME THE FUCK ON: I realize that this is probably how root beer was made back in the cowboy days but one of the benefits of living in the modern day is that technology improves things. For instance, there were no left and right shoes until about 1800. Doctors once prescribed mercury, a highly toxic metal, to (unsuccessfully) treat syphilis. And anyone who’s ever had a 2400bps modem knows that downloading porn in those days was an exercise in futility which could drive even the Dalai Lama to paroxysms of rage.So thank fucking god modern rootbeer like Virgil's or Thomas Kemper's doesn't taste like storm drain runoff.

I really couldn’t understand what was going on. It wasn’t like we were drinking pain in the ass drinks like a pousse café or a mojito or a homonculus. We were having whiskey and champagne for fuck’s sake. All Oblivia Wilde had to do was POUR the damn stuff. But that was apparently too demanding a task, so instead of getting dessert and drinking until I was channeling Peter O’Toole, we went elsewhere. Too bad, Tallulah’s!

Tallulah’s isn’t bad, just maddening. The food is actually pretty tasty, with a focus on interesting vegetable dishes and bold flavors that still manage to show chivalrous restraint. But it just doesn’t sync with the décor. The food should scream STAGFLATION! or GAS SHORTAGES! or even, god forbid, BRADY BUNCH! But sadly it doesn’t. And if you do decide to go to Tallulah’s, for fuck’s sake, just drink water.

Rating: 6.5 shortages out of 10

Tallulah’s is located at 550 19th Ave E

For reservations (parties of 6 or more) call 206-860-0077

Tallulah's on Urbanspoon