Ask Mr. Gold 

Thursday, Mar 25 2004

QUESTION: The French dip is often written about in Los Angeles as if it were a religion or something, as if we were so damned lucky to live in a city clever enough to have invented such a wonderful sandwich. Yet outside the terms of the so-called Phillippe’s–vs.–Cole’s PE Buffet debate — an argument about the origin of the sandwich that has been going on since well before my great-great-grandmother decided to take her deviled eggs in the Bullocks Wilshire tearoom instead — the French dip may as well not exist. Does the French dip really exist? Is it possible even to find a French-dip sandwich outside of the lairs of the downtown dinosaurs?

—Justine, Ladera Heights

ANSWER: Yes, Justine, there is a French dip, an elegantly soggy meeting of meat and roll brought together with mustard and broth. And it is indeed a Los Angeles native — I once was naive enough to try the East Coast version of the roast-beef dip at an ancient restaurant not far from Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay, and I couldn’t claw the first bite of the miserable creation out of my mouth fast enough. The beast, which tasted like paper towels saturated in brackish harbor water, was even worse than the French dips at Denny’s, Arby’s or The Hat. The French dip, like the bean-and-cheese burrito, doesn’t travel well.

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Which brings us to The Dip, the newest Los Angeles shrine to the sandwich, a small standup restaurant where French dips of beef or pork or lamb are practically the only things on the menu, sturdy rolls, dipped once, twice or thrice, packed with meat. I especially like the lamb dip, layered with double handfuls of juicy meat hewn from a roasted leg, dripping and delicious, a five-napkin sandwich if ever there was one. The Dip even delivers, which may be the best argument for moving to the Valley that you’ll find. Don’t forget to try the fresh-squeezed lemonade. 14333 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 501-1850.

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