The Taco Mix Torta Cubana: What’s wrong with too much?Photo: Melissa Hom.
A good sandwich is a balanced sandwich. This, as any faithful reader of the Underground Gourmet’s sandwich dispatches can tell you, goes without saying. Good sandwich-making requires not only skill but also a delicate touch. Frantically stuffing a sandwich the way cartoon bank robbers cram bills into sacks emblazoned with $$$ symbols is considered bad form among the sandwich elite, and emblematic of what is wrong, culinarily and nutritionally, with our Supersize Nation. As Mario Batali once explained to the UG in between dainty bites of a toasted panino,
“The American tendency is to obfuscate the perfect simplicity of the sandwich by putting too much crap in it.” Despite prevailing carbophobic biases and the legacy of a certain diet doctor, Batali asserted, “The bread is the main event. There shouldn’t be more stuff inside than outside.”
Thus it was with mixed emotions that the UG found himself parked outside a humble little Sunset Park taco shack called Taco Mix the other day, contemplating the titanic torta Cubana before him. On the one hand, here was an undeniably delicious sandwich inspired by Cuba’s claim to lunch-counter fame, the Cubano. On the other hand, it looked like a Cubano times ten. One gutsy little bolillo roll was expected to bear the weight, not to mention the competing textures and flavors, of refried beans, mayo, melted cheese, jalapeño peppers, lettuce and tomato, avocado, hot sauce, two slices of boiled ham, one split and grilled hot dog, some hand-carved shards of smoked ham, and, finally, a thin, lightly breaded Milanese-style beefsteak. In short, it was a sandwich that Mario Batali would identify as one whose perfect simplicity had been obfuscated by the inclusion of an oversufficiency of crap. Indeed, there was nothing simple about it. And yet, when contemplation turned to feverish consumption, the UG had to admit that there was indeed perfection to be found in the unexpected balance of flavors, the unapologetic meatiness, and the sturdy construction of the thing. As it turned out, Taco Mix’s torta Cubana possessed a voluptuous Ugly Betty–like inner beauty capable of seducing the staunchest sandwich puritans, Batali and the Underground Gourmet included. —Rob Patronite & Robin Raisfeld
Taco Mix, 46th St., nr. Fifth Ave., Sunset Park, Brooklyn; 718-304-4318