When news hit that Black Hogg in Silver Lake was opening for lunch, the food community held its breath. Black Hogg introduced Los Angeles to popcorn bacon and the buttery lamb burger, but translating such decadent foods into a lunch-appropriate package would have required unfathomable, diet-destroying mental gymnastics. So earlier this month, owners Eric Park and Jonathan Kim opened a new sandwich concept menu for lunch and separately branded it as Sopressata.
Sandwich lunches might seem a little out of the wheelhouse for an executive chef whose pork belly tacos were once hailed by notoriously tough Los Angeles Times food critic S. Irene Virbila as “things of beauty.” But sandwiches actually hearken back to Park’s more humble past.
“I actually owned the Togo’s outside USC for nine and a half years, so [Sopressata] started pretty seamlessly. We got things going right away,” Park said.
That was before Park attended culinary school, and before his stint at New York’s hotspot gastropub The Spotted Pig. Park returned to Los Angeles to serve up near-recklessly inventive (and equally flavorful) dishes at Black Hogg last year, and decided to try his hand at lunch by going back to his roots.
Though some of Sopressata’s sandwiches, such as the Turkey and Avocado seem partially influenced by his involvement with Togo’s, the elements and execution are on a completely different plane. Park incorporates superior ingredients at every stage of the sandwich’s creation, starting with the bread.
“The most important part of a sandwich is the bread. The bread we’re using has a good flaky crust; you bite into it, and there’s a crispy crust but eventually, it’s soft and it gives,” Park said.
“Crispy crust” is a bit of an understatement — the lustrous, almond-brown crust feels rock-solid to the touch, but upon eating, one realizes it’s not quite the enamel-crushing affair that one would find at Bay Cities Deli. Past the initial crunch, the bread almost disappears, leaving nothing but the contents of the sandwich to enjoy.
The ingredients for the Italian Meats sandwich are exactingly prepared; red onions are slivered whisper-thin, with a smattering of aged balsamic that plays low acidic notes against the rich sopressata. Fresh arugula accentuates the peppery notes, and marinated artichokes perfume the palate with the intense scent of garlic. The provolone is also a far cry from the lifeless squares and triangles at other, unnamed sub shops.
“Our cheeses are imported from Italy, so our provolone actually tastes like a cheese. There’s some funkiness and nuttiness to it,” Park said. “The fontina’s a little milder but still has a sharpness for turkey, where you want a milder cheese.”
For all its purported simplicity, Park plays inside the formal constraints of a typical sandwich to draw out intense and complex flavors. For vegetarians, there’s the Avocado Cucumber Artichoke sandwich. And for those more inclined to leaner meats, there’s a non-traditional take on the tuna sandwich.
“Everyone does tuna with a mayonnaise and pickles with relish, so I tried a tuna with olive oil and vegetables, and it’s so refreshing,” Park said. “I think it’s a better way to present tuna, especially if you have high-quality tuna.”
High-quality tuna like what could be found at Soprassata-—Park sources his tuna from line-caught, dolphin-safe tuna from American Tuna. Park says American Tuna sets itself apart from the usual Starkist canned variety by having a superior texture, which is better suited for sandwiches.
The sandwiches themselves run from $7.50 to $8.00 each, with chips and drinks costing extra. Patrons can make use of Black Hogg’s dining area, but the vast majority of Sopressata’s clientele have somewhere to be, so they phone in orders and take it to go.
As for any further menu developments, Park prefers to keep the Black Hogg and Sopressata as separate concepts.
“We’re not going to do any overlap. We want Sopressata to take on a life of its own,” Park said. “If people came here at lunchtime and saw that it was still called Black Hogg, they would come expecting something else.”
There is a bit of overlap, however — Black Hogg’s full drink menu is available at Sopressata, so diners can polish off the meal with a pint of Avery Joe’s Premium America Pilsner or a bottle of Mad River Jamaican Red Ale.
Park might have two different concepts on his hands, but it’s evident that he has a knack for finding flavor wherever he goes — as long as he doesn’t step back into a Togo’s.
Follow Euno on Twitter @eunowhat