Time and commitment are the cornerstones of any serious endeavor. These two principles anchor the fleeting converted into true believers. And in the congregation of delicatessen culture, I have but one destination, one true church: Brent’s Delicatessen & Restaurant. Now we could circle the culinary mulberry bush with menu discussions ranging from soups to desserts, but my real test of any deli worth their weight is the pastrami. I love pastrami and to me it’s a Holy Meat. It’s own Trinity. Beef, salt, maybe mustard; can anyone argue with this highly intelligent design? Coming from Irish-German stock, I am well qualified to duck a thousand coronary deaths for the love of this traditional cured giant. And for the benefit of my neglected readers, I offer the following: Read, believe and indulge.
Delicatessen Schools of Thought
While many swoon over the Cheesecake Factory/Claim Jumper idea that too much food is a good thing, I do not subscribe to that. I want a meal or in this case a sandwich with which I can actually fit into my mouth as opposed to turning into an uneven open-faced nightmare. Or succumbing to the “I will need a box” reality even before the meal arrives.
In short, I prefer careful thought into my portion and my menu choices. Light eaters will need a box, medium (like myself) won’t have a problem cleaning the plate and heavies can order from the dessert menu.
Fat Vs. Lean
There is also the debate over lean versus fat marbled meats. I have long been a fan of the marbling idea, as it seems to produce a much more tender and flavorful end product. And with this idea Brent’s does the seemingly impossible. They produce lean yet tender pastrami.
I must confess, to me the benchmark of atmosphere is Canter’s in Los Angeles. (Back-story: I was a teenager, it was downtown and my friends said it was “cool”) In being a Southern California native, I really had no idea what a legitimate deli was supposed to “feel” like, but Canter’s is what I imagined an original east coast delicatessen to feel like. And while the Westlake location may feel a bit too sanitary for young and tainted tastes, at this stage in my twilight years it feels bright and inviting. Also keep in mind that it’s only been here since 2006. Give it the time to mature into it’s own museum like its original location in Northridge (circa 1967) has achieved.
I can’t stress enough how wonderful their service is. Being in retail, I am hypercritical of this often overlooked and maligned art. So often I am amazed with the lack of competent service businesses provide. I am always given spot on service. It’s almost become a game for me, “Is this the visit that they fail to show me a good time?” But this has never happened and the game is somewhat dead for lack of players. The wait staff is both knowledgeable and attentive. They nail it every time, busy or slow without fail. Your drinks magically refill, the server asks you if need anything…you never have to hunt for someone who will fulfill your culinary request.
Considering that you will pay anywhere from $8 to $11 dollars for crappy fast food, I will gladly pay the difference…i.e. I would gladly sacrifice 3 Jerry’s Famous pastrami for one Brent’s Pastrami. I understand this is a bold statement (BTW I love Jerry’s Famous and Solley’s), but I had to elevate the competitive comparison above a Subway or Quiznos.
If you are going to go out, give yourself something extraordinary.
I spoke with the one of the owner’s, Marc Hernandez, and grilled him on the particulars of what makes their pastrami reign supreme. And it really comes down to their infinite and now famous attention to detail. From which cuts make the grade (they use a navel cut of brisket) to how they double steam the meat, meticulously cut it and assemble it.
Marc described that he expects that the sandwiches are “fluffy” as you bite down on them. It should be almost spongy with a clean bite that doesn’t drag other larger pieces of meat away from it. DISCLAIMER this reference really only makes sense after you have tried one of their masterpieces. You won’t realize how many inferior imitations are out there until you experience a sandwich correctly done. Sandwich construction really makes a huge difference.
My Favorite Menu Item
Hands down the Black Pastrami Reuben $13.95. This sandwich needs nothing but a mouth to accommodate it.
Great dining is a combination of unique experiences. Some may make a great sandwich but the service suffers. You may have amazing service but it’s really expensive. But the real measure is when you get both great food and service and you find yourself plotting your next visit before you have even left.
|Westlake Village 2799 Townsgate Road Westlake Village, CA 91361 Phone: 805.557.1882 Hours: Daily 7am to 9pm||Northridge 19565 Parthenia Street Northridge, CA 91324 Phone: 818-886-5679 Hours: Daily 7am to 9pm|