Scrolling through my Instagram feed is where a bulk of lead generation and story inspo happens these days. It all goes down in the timeline, forget the DM — especially for a food writer. Such a tactic leads me through wormholes of #foodie and of course, #foodbeast, where one can easily get lost in the visual cornucopia of post-edited pics of epic cheese pulls, never-before-seen eats, and visually arresting dining experiences.
One such deep dive lead me to a sandwich that was popping up on my feed within the past year or so. From the description of it being a 'deep-fried A5 Wagyu katsu sandwich' to the magnetic pink hue of the prized beef enrobed in golden panko, I knew that this was another story worth telling. I mean, what chef in their right mind would deep fry Wagyu beef, let alone of the A5 grade quality?
For the unfamiliar, A5 is the highest grade given to the finest of Japanese beef. Known for it's rich marbling of fat throughout, the meat is typically treated with the utmost care and cooked simply. But the fact that Chef Daniel Son is deep-frying the luxury beef has foodies and purists alike clutching their pearls in horror. 'Blasphemy!' they'd likely say, but to that I implore them to treat themselves to the experience.
And that's exactly what Son's A5 Wagyu katsu sando is, an experience — one that can be had at Smorgasburg Los Angeles every Sunday.
"It’s definitely almost a blasphemous thing to do with Wagyu, let alone truly authentic A5 Wagyu beef, with the best part of the tenderloin. But I wanted to provide something that would create a memory, especially a new memory."
What supports that goal of Son's is his use of premium ingredients, thoughtful approach to using them, and dedication to his craft. So make no mistake, this isn't just some untrained hand making these sandwiches, as they're the creation of a chef with a pedigree, one that counts schooling at the Culinary Institute of America and tenures in culinary bastions like Spago and Noma. But above all, pride in and understanding of his Japanese roots that was sharpened while cooking in Tokyo, Japan are what lead to a well-crafted experience, something beyond it being just a sandwich.
"I wanted to feel like I needed to immerse myself into Japanese culture and to fully understand Japanese food and its soul and it’s philosophy of it all."
As a result of Son's considerate approach and respect to his roots, expect the finest A5 Wagyu tenderloin, housemade panko bread and moist and sweet milk bread to gild that unforgettable moment when you sink your teeth into the first bite of this sandwich. But alas, Rome wasn't built in a day, as the adage goes, and with this masterpiece between two slices of bread, the research and development Son put into it ranged from 13 tries to get the bread right to five full months until the whole sandwich was up to his satisfaction.
In regards to all the buzz surrounding his sandwich, Son offers a humble take. "It’s humblng but I also feel like it’s a ways to go. I feel like there’s so much to go through, so much to learn, and also so much to reintroduce with the whole katsu sando game. I’m excited to bring everything to the table once we open brick and mortar of course, but I’m humbled. I want to keep it going, but at the same time you can always get better. Even in the simplest stuff you know."
And that very brick and mortar, which will be located in Los Angeles' Chinatown, will be another platform in which he can educate, refine, and improve — whether it be himself, his diners, or the community as a whole.