Spice Table’s Lunch Menu, Beyond the Banh Mi
It’s hard to believe, but it was one year ago this week that Spice Table started serving lunch downtown. A lot has happened in that year, including Chef Bryant Ng being named one Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs for 2012. And even though dinner is what the Southeast Asian restaurant on the outskirts of Little Tokyo gets praised for most, I’ve always been a huge fan of their lunch. It’s not only delicious, but it’s a relative bargain when put up against comparable restaurants in the hood (I’m looking at you Lazy Ox and Baco Mercat!)
When they first started serving lunch the menu centered around their semi-controversial $8-9 sandwiches, anchored by a cold cut banh mi made entirely with house made charcuterie. But since then they’ve added a number of new dishes, including a pork belly sandwich that might be my new favorite…
Rice bowls were one of the earliest additions to the menu. There’s a curry chicken bowl for $8.50, or this $9 pork bowl featuring ground pork, chinese sausage, mustard greens, scallions, and fried shallots. It’s a little small for the price, and those who are hoping for the flavor punch of a Chego rice bowl will be disappointed. But all the ingredients are super tasty, and if you’re looking for a more sensibly sized lunch you could do a lot worse than this.
The cheeseburger ($8) was the next thing to be added to the menu, after a successful run as a Monday night special. Featuring lettuce, tomato, and American cheese, the burger leans more towards In N Out than Fukuburger, with the curry pickles and sambal adding a more subtle Asian influence than some might be expecting. The real draw is the fact that it’s grilled fresh on the wood burning hearth behind the counter. All in all it’s a solid burger, provided you’re not hoping for something super Asian.
On the sandwich front, they’ve moved two specials onto the permanent menu. This fresh fry topped Asian sloppy joe for $9 (how can that be bad!?)
And my new favorite go to Spice Table lunch order, the pork belly sandwich. I was semi expecting the warm, fatty hunks of Momofuku’ish pork belly that have been making the rounds at hip Asian restaurants around the country over the past few years, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was more like a pastrami sandwich than a Flying Pig Truck pork bun. The pork belly is sliced cold cut thin, and served topped with cole slaw, fried onions and a sweet tamarind dressing, and proves once and for all that the genius of Spice Table’s lunch lies entirely with their house made charcuterie. At $11 it makes me take back everything I said about Spice Table being more economical than Baco Mercat or Lazy Ox, but in the end all three places are worth splurging for.
Of course it’s not all good news for Spice Table. There’s talk that the new rail line might displace the entire building that houses Spice Table, and Chef Ng says if that happens he likely won’t re-open the restaurant in a new location. Or, read another way… you might want to go get that pork belly sandwich while you still can!
The Spice Table, 114 S. Central Avenue, 213.620.1840