In the Yelp era, where seemingly everybody rushes to judgment, it’s important to make a good first impression. When I was invited to preview a much more ambitious outpost of East Borough, I already enjoyed their Vietnamese sandwiches, bowls and rolls in Costa Mesa, but with the Culver City project that Chloe Tran & John Vu Cao are opening with Paul Hibler and Jason Neroni – partners in the American Gonzo Food Corporation culinary incubator – the quartet was out to bag a much larger beast. At a Superba Snack Bar preview, the young restaurateurs acquitted themselves well, with highlights including a Green Papaya & Cucumber Salad with spicy nuoc cham, cashews and house-made beef jerky that’s sure to be a hit with the SONY lunch crowd; and Phocatini, a beyond-al dente noodle dish that showcases the flavors of pho, and is damn phon to say. However, the showstopper turned out to be a heaping, off-menu pork shank that took the table by surprise.
Team East Borough braised the shank for five hours with tamarind, coconut milk, ginger, garlic, onion, lemongrass, sambal, shrimp and crab paste, pork jus and more. A protective layer of fat helped ensure the rosy meat remained tender and pulled fairly easily from the bone. One of the large format dishes that they plan to serve in Culver City arrived blanketed with chives alongside a wood plank sporting Sriracha, butter lettuce and firm sliced pickles. The components all contributed to fun pork-fueled wraps that hint at the type of playfulness that the partners plan to display alongside the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2014 and beyond.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.