Young and Hungry

Gut Reaction: José Andrés’ Pricey Pepito Might Be Worth The Full Jackson

Y&H is loathe to heap any more praise on overly celebrated D.C. chef José Andrés. The guy has already won the coveted James Beard Award for "Outstanding Chef," after all, and has more publicists following him around than Jesus Christ. By and large, the food writers in this town tend to chronicle his every move as if he's turning water into wine, even if it's really just gelatin fashioned into a sort of faux shark fin. He certainly doesn't need me to add any more visible lip prints on his already liberally puckered arse.

And while I was largely underwhelmed by Andrés' latest brick-and-mortar effort, America Eats Tavern, which I still consider to be among the biggest wallet-busting tourist traps in town, I have tried to approach the debut of his hugely hyped new food truck, Pepe, with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of fairness. Even if the hefty price tag for a single curbside sandwich—twenty bucks, are you kidding me?—would tend to suggest sidewalk robbery.

In this case, I've got to hand to you, chef. That $20 pepito de Iberico, in fact, doesn't suck. At all. It might even be worth the full Jackson.

I feel privileged to have simply snagged one on Tuesday afternoon, when the Pepe truck made its maiden voyage to the curb outside the National Portrait Gallery. My immediate predecessor, the irrepressible Tim Carman, wasn't so lucky.

The pricey sammy, which leapfrogs the Red Hook Lobster Pound's signature roll for the title of priciest street food in town, features two kinds of fancy high-end hog—seared Iberico pork and Serrano ham—dressed with roasted green peppers, caramelized onions and aioli.

Unwrapping the slender pig-stuffed torpedo reveals a healthy dose of iridescent grease that nicely softens the ficelle bread but thankfully not to the point of sogginess. The pork is ultra fatty and delicious and the pepper provides a nice tang. After thoughtfully scarfing (normally a contradiction, but not in this case-I was in the zone here) my tongue radiated with a lingering garlicy flavor that I dared not disturb with liquids for the next hour.

Is it worth the highfalutin price? Think of it this way: if you were to order the same two fancy styles of meat off the charcuterie menu at Proof, you'd be spending a total of $33. Granted, you're probably talking about a few less slices on the sandwich. But, otherwise, it's not too far out of line with the usually jacked-up prices of the city's haute dining scene.

There are far stupider ways to waste a twenty. This is one damn good sandwich.

Photo by Ashley Dejean

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