Oh, Langer's...was it just me?
After a somewhat annoying late-morning dealing with Koreatown traffic - YOU try framing a snapshot when there are no pullover spaces and there's a honking truck on your tail - my last address was on Bonnie Brae, just south of 8th. "A-HA!" I thought. "Time for some Pastrami Therapy!" and headed over to Langer's. I had not been there since our light-rail excusion with the parents several years ago, and after having had a couple of other examples that I thought were not bad at all, but not as good as my memory of Langer's, I figured it was time to check back in.
I have not been a well puppy lately, so I certainly should have played it safer, but I was also ravenously hungry, so I ordered a #19 with a side of potato salad, and asked that the meat be hand-sliced. When it all arrived, the pastrami certainly smelled more like the Real Deal than any other I've had, and the first bites of that and the wonderful bread had me wrapping my hands around it to keep it from flying off in every direction...and then, about halfway into this, I began to notice something: the pastrami, while flavorful, was also some of the saltiest meat I've ever eaten. I could feel my blood-pressure medication sort of go slinking away. And after picking up some of the chunks that fell out onto the plate, there was a disconcerting amount of fattiness in there as well. Fat I like; big gobs of chewy fat I don't. I also was forced to agree with the purists that while coleslaw and Russian dressing can be useful adjuncts to boring, everyday pastrami, it fits on this stuff like canned gravy on a good veal piccata.
The pickles were also disastrously salty, and chewy, not the fresh, crisp-tender whitish-green things I can get in delis, even in Nashville, that otherwise scarcely pretend to Langer's league. As for the potato salad, I was afraid my disappointment was coloring my judgment, so I decided to give it all a rerun the next day.
That was today, and having just gone for Round 2, my sad conclusions have remained intact. I've had country ham that was much less salty than this pastrami, though the fine flavor almost compensates. The pickle's not bad, but still too dull - I like a crisp bite, a mildly salty tang and a good whiff of garlic. And the potato salad is truly deplorable - unevenly cooked potatoes, a few dispirited shreds of some undefinable vegetables, a dressing of no distinct flavor or character. This is rocket science?
After I'm all recovered I'll have to hit them up for a plain-and-simple pastrami sandwich, coleslaw on the side, just to see if I caught'em on a bad day, as they did me. Happens.
Sorry to hear about your disappointing trip to Langer's, but that might just be a good thing. God's way of telling you to slow down a little bit on the fatty, salty food? I think your doctor might agree as he jots down another prescription for diovan and adds some lipitor just in case.
Had the 19 last week. Perfect as always.
Although, yes, the potato salad and pickles are awful.
Look, we are talking about pastrami! Pastrami is beef brisket that has been corned and then seasoned even more -- saltiness is not just a seasoning, but an essence. And much of the criticism of the plain hand-cut pastrami on rye at Langer's is that it can be a bit too lean and thus dry -- I order mine untrimmed so I don't lose the texture and moisture from the crusty fat layer. On the side, potato salad may not be Langer's strength -- I prefer a cup of the matzoh ball soup as a starter or a plate of their crinkle cut fries, ordered well, to share on the side.
I can't recall ordering it, but I've seen a coworker order Langer's brisket and it looked tender and good. If it is slow-roasted and then steamed like the pastrami, it could provide a lot of the same bite and unctuousness without the saltiness -- wonder if they'd do a half'n'half?