City Paper is not for tourists
The Dish: The avocado, nori, and scallion sandwich
The Location: Le Pain Quotidien, 2815 M Street NW, (202) 315-5420
The Price: $8.95
The Skinny: Le Pain Quotidien is an international chain of casual bakeries and cafes that specialize in fresh bread. Pain was originally launched about 17 years ago in Brussels by chef Alain Coumont who, according to company legend, “spent several years perfecting the taste, and so little by little the unmistakable taste of the original daily bread (‘le pain quotidien’) was created.” Yeah, that’s fascinating, but not as fascinating as this: How using the French spelling of “the daily bread” obliterates any overt Christian interpretation, even if the long communal tables inside the new Georgetown location suggest that you should “break bread” together. A friend and I did exactly that over a recent lunch—and we didn’t even pray first. We instead took a leap of faith on a pair of sandwiches, she the chicken curry and me the avocado with nori seaweed and scallions. I was delighted when the waiter brought out our plates. My sandwich looked more like a salad, or even a tea sandwich on steroids; single slices of house-made wheat bread were buried under crescent moons of avocado, diced tomatoes, various lettuces, ringlets of scallion, toasted sesame seeds, and lots and lots of tiny slivers of nori. The final grace note were two triangles of dried nori standing in the middle of the plate, like bat wings in mid-flap. The sandwich looked too pretty to eat. When I did bite into the concoction, I was surprised at how bland all those ingredients turned out to be. Or maybe I should say how subtle they were. The creaminess of the avocado tended to dominate the nuttiness of the sesame seeds, the mineral flavor of the nori, and the…well, the abolute nothingness of the out-of-season tomatoes. This was one of those occasions when I was glad there was salt on the table. A few shakes, and everything was fine. The magic of sodium chloride enhanced and combined the flavors. Who knows, maybe it was a miracle?