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The Underground Gourmet

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Taco Mix’s Torta Cubana May Be Overstuffed, But It’s Also Sandwich of the Week

A good sandwich is a balanced sandwich. This, as any faithful reader of the Underground Gourmet's sandwich dispatches can tell you, goes without saying. Good sandwich-making requires not only skill but also a delicate touch. Frantically stuffing a sandwich the way cartoon bank robbers cram bills into sacks emblazoned with $$$ symbols is considered bad form among the sandwich elite, and emblematic of what is wrong, culinarily and nutritionally, with our Supersize Nation. As Mario Batali once explained to the UG in between dainty bites of a toasted panino, “The American tendency is to obfuscate the perfect simplicity of the sandwich by putting too much crap in it.” Despite prevailing carbophobic biases and the legacy of a certain diet doctor, Batali asserted, “The bread is the main event. There shouldn't be more stuff inside than outside.”

Sandwich of the Week: The No Mayo Tuna Sandwich at Henri Bendel of All Places

Eating for a living takes the Underground Gourmet to all sorts of strange and mysterious places — the Upper West Side, for instance — but none more sinisterly exotic than the typical department-store café. As anyone who’s ever lunched on frozen yogurt and cantaloupe at Bloomingdale’s Forty Carrots or nibbled miniature quiche at the American Girl Cafe can attest, these shopaholic fuel stations are not the manliest places to tie on the noonday feedbag. So how the UG found himself ensconced at a petite table at Henri Bendel’s new third-floor Chocolate Bar the other day, God and Ms. UG only know.

The Underground Gourmet Taps Pig’s Ass As Sandwich of the Week

Three words the Underground Gourmet never imagined he’d hear bandied about in a nice, respectable restaurant: Pig’s Ass Sandwich. And yet, there he was the other night at the brand-new Casellula Cheese & Wine Café surrounded by otherwise upstanding citizens speaking to their waiters in low, excited voices and putting in their orders thusly: “I’d like the Pig’s Ass Sandwich, please.”

Sandwich of the Week: Lassi’s Tamarind-Pork Sandwich

When the Underground Gourmet ponders flashes of fusion brilliance in the sandwich realm, he thinks of Zak Pelaccio’s interpretive Cubano at 5 Ninth, made with prosciutto and Boerenkass; the Greenpoint sandwich, a.k.a., the Polish bánh mì, at Williamsburg’s Silent H; and Sullivan St. Bakery’s deranged but delicious PBM (pancetta, basil, and mango). Add to this illustrious list the tamarind-pork sandwich at Lassi.

Sandwich of the Week: Sullivan St. Bakery’s Brilliant ‘Anti-Bread’ Sandwich

One of the greatest gifts to the sandwich world, the Underground Gourmet has always said, is Sullivan St. Bakery’s ciabatta. With its smallish size, not-too-dense crumb, and sturdy crust, it has, over the past decade or so, become the bread of choice for discriminating sandwich chewers all over town, and, consequently, as brazenly knocked off as a Gucci handbag.

New York’s Restaurant Jungle Grows a Little Lusher

When spring comes, branches and leaves appear in the most unexpected places. This week’s food coverage is like that: There are no huge openings, analogous to maples or firs springing up overnight, but rather a rich carpet of new sprouts and saplings. Rob and Robin glory in the pig-out that is Resto, the new Belgian restaurant on Park Avenue South; Gael Greene stops in to enjoy the immense, spanking-new Landmarc in the Time Warner Center; David Chang knows just what to do with the long-awaited, precious ramps in In Season; and other unexpected treats, from a waterside barbecue in one of the Short Lists to a slew of spring Openings fill out the foliage.

Resto’s Tête de Cochon Is Our Sandwich of the Week

It’s a sad fact of life that some of the best things to eat in restaurants never make it out of the kitchen and onto the Underground Gourmet’s plate. We’re talking about staff or “family” meals, of course, those rustic snacks that kitchen crews deem unfit for mass consumption but then greedily hoard behind kitchen doors like hungry wolves around a fresh carcass. Happily, that was not the fate of one of the best sandwiches the UG has ever sunk his teeth into, the tête de cochon at the new Belgian restaurant Resto.

Sandwich of the Week: One Cheesesteak on Quotation Marks, Coming Up

The Underground Gourmet is not from Philadelphia, but if he were, according to a native Philly friend, his natural response upon being presented with Degustation’s new “cheesesteak” sandwich would be to either sue the chef for false advertising or wait for him outside the restaurant with a horsewhip. Of course, Philadelphians are born with Cheez Whiz running through their veins and that tends to cloud their judgment on such matters.

This Week: Contents Under Pressure

This week’s food section is all about pressure: A pastry chef has to cook every night for a president who hates pineapples and will send him packing at the first hint of progressive dessert-making; Vinh Nguyen, a first generation Vietnamese-American, rolls the dice with his Williamsburg restaurant Silent H, and, as far as Rob and Robin are concerned, comes up lucky seven; Jeffrey Chodorow, fresh off his battle with Frank Bruni and Adam Platt, opens a big new restaurant and hopes for the best; and four new restaurants open, surely hoping for the best as well. Even this week’s In Season is rife with tension, calling as it does for a delicate filleting operation that could easily destroy a beautifully roasted flounder. The New York food world is not for the faint of heart.

Easter Meals, Six Ways (and Five Days) From Sunday

There’s more to Easter than binging on Peeps and throwing up in church — 2,000 years of beautiful history, for one, and special Sunday dinners for another. Last week, we told you where to have unusual Seders; this week, Rob and Robin tell us where to get the best Easter meals. Because our Borg-like database must continually grow — it will someday consume us all — we’ve nabbed you the menus. They run the gamut from old-school Easter antipasti and spaghetti with lamb ragù (at Lupa) to whole-roasted lambs (pictured above), rotated on the sidewalk in front of Estiatorio Milos. And none of them, we’re glad to report, include Peeps. Easter Feasts: Uptown Easter Feasts: Downtown [NYM]

Filet-O-Fish Sandwich Now Twice as Delicious

There are many delicious things with which you could embellish a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich — if your goal was to make it even more calamitous to the waistlines of the general Filet-O-Fish-loving public than it already is. A Scotch egg, a pound of bacon, or a deep-fried Snickers bar all spring to mind. But if you really wanted to go all out, if you really wanted to vex the fast-food police, what you might do is simply plop an additional Filet-O-Fish on top of the first one.

Enviro-Friendly Eateries Take It to the Next Level

By now, it’s become commonplace for restaurants of a certain environmentally correct ilk to cite their purveyors on their menus, especially when said purveyors are boutique organic farmers or tiny artisanal producers. But two restaurants, Franny’s (Brooklyn’s Chez Panissean pizzeria), and Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack, might be the first establishments to name-check their energy suppliers. Franny’s credits the progressive ConEdison Solutions, while Shake Shack simply gives a shout-out to the wind, as in “The Shack’s electricity is now 100% powered by wind power!” In a similar vein, Maury Rubin’s East Village “green bakery,” Birdbath — in what might be an attempt to discourage anyone thinking of going on a cookie run in a stretch Hummer — has posted a sign advertising a 50 percent discount to customers arriving on a bicycle or skateboard. Pedestrians, presumably, pay full price. — Rob Patronite & Robin Raisfeld Related: Danny Meyer on Shake Shack 2.0

The World’s First Polish Bánh Mì Is Our Sandwich of the Week

Consider the “Greenpoint” sandwich at the new Williamsburg Vietnamese restaurant, Silent H, the world’s first Polish bánh mì. At long last, these two seemingly unfusable cuisines have fused, and no one could be happier about this blessed union than the Underground Gourmet, who yields to no one in his devotion to both Polish sausages and Vietnamese sandwiches. The “Greenpoint” is by all outward appearances a regular bánh mì (itself, of course, one of the greatest fusion dishes of all time) meticulously primped with pickled carrot, cucumber, daikon, fresh jalapeño, and cilantro. One side of the bread is slicked with pork-liver pâté, which serves nicely as a condiment rather than a filling; the other with a judicious swipe of aïoli.

Haute Barnyard Take on a Classic SoCal Sandwich

Almost as much as he loves discovering and devouring worthy sandwiches, the Underground Gourmet also loves to brush up on his sandwich lore and then regale Ms. UG with his fascinating findings — which is precisely what he did after a recent excursion to Park Slope’s Flatbush Farm, where he tucked into a delicious French-dip sandwich. As you may or may not know (Ms. UG did not), the illustrious French dip, like so much of America’s storied sandwicherie, has a slightly murky history. Two restaurants, both founded in 1908 and both located in downtown Los Angeles, lay claim to it. The owners of Philippe the Original say that the French dip was born when founder Philippe Mathieu, while making a sandwich for a policeman one day in 1918, accidentally dropped a long French-style roll into some meaty pan juices. The copper — whose name may or may not have been Officer French — liked it so much he came back the next day for an encore performance. Had Philippe possessed better reflexes or the cop fussier standards, the world might be, to this day, bereft of French dips.

Sandwiches of the Week: In Celebration of National Peanut Month

National Peanut Month — like National Baked Bean Month (July) and National Accordion Awareness Month (June) — comes but once a year, and that means celebrating, Peter Pan salmonella outbreak notwithstanding. Our top five nut-butter sandwiches, below. 1. The Elvis at Peanut Butter & Co. Excellent peanut butter, honey, sliced banana, and optional (but recommended) bacon on white toast. Historical culinary note: In what might be the most famous case of the munchies, Elvis flew from Memphis to Denver on his private jet just to sample the progenitor of this fine sandwich, which was a loaf of Italian bread sliced lengthwise, a jar of Jif, a jar of jelly, and a pound of bacon. It was meant for sharing, but Elvis wolfed one down all by himself. 240 Sullivan St., nr. W. 3rd St.; 212-677-3995.

Psilakis, Pretty Much a Greek God, Has Another Opening

Michael Psilakis’s ambitious new restaurant, Anthos, opens Monday in the old Acqua Pazza space. It’s been a busy, up-and-down year for the chef: His critically praised Dona closed, unexpectedly, one week into 2007. Just a couple of weeks later, he converted his high Greek eatery Onera into the more casual Kefi, which went on, in this week’s issue, to win four stars from the Underground Gourmet. The wheel in the sky keeps on turning, as they say. Looks like it’s lifting Psilakis back up. We went inside Anthos and got all the evidence.

The Fatty Slider: A Home Run

The Underground Gourmet isn’t saying that his mother was a disaster in the kitchen, but her idea of sprucing up the young UG’s burgers before she cooked them to a fine crisp was to fling a packetful of Lipton onion-soup mix into the ground beef. The UG was reminded of this culinary catastrophe as he bit into a Fatty Slider the other day, at the inaugural brunch at Zak Pelaccio’s Fatty Crab. Before you get the wrong idea, you should know that a Fatty Slider is not a Lipton onion burger — far from it. But it does fall into the same general category of spiced-up ground-beef patties, however great the temporal and culinary divide between seventies suburbia and 2007 meatpacking district.