THINGS I ATE: Tortas at Torta Company

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I think it’s safe to say that the difference between a good sandwich and a dreamy sandwich usually comes down to the bread. True, the stuff between the slices matters too, but it’s the bread that’s the real game-changer. That’s one of the reasons why Chef Jimmy Shaw’s Torta Company in Downtown LA serves up such tasty food. As the name suggests, this eatery (located within the swanky FIGat7th complex) focuses on Mexican tortas and their signature telera bread — something I admittedly have very little to no experience with.

Well, that all changed when I was invited to enjoy a media-comped meal at the Torta Company with Chef Shaw himself. Shaw’s other restaurant, Lotería Grill, has been a favorite of mine for several years now; so naturally I leapt at the opportunity to try his new venture.

After the jump, pics from Torta Company and a few nuggets of wisdom from Chef Shaw.

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FIGat7th. Once a rundown mall whose culinary high point was a Sbarros, it now features all sorts of shiny new vendors (and a City Target, which we all love).

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At the bottom of this pseudo-Guggenheim experience is a new food court with a variety of international offerings including… wait for it… wait for it… Torta Company!

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The aforementioned Torta Company (there’s also a Lotería Grill next door, and for the record, it’s pronounced Lote-eh-REE-ah).

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Fresh telera bread is baked seemingly nonstop on the premises and deposited in this bin. Indeed, the turnover is fast: I watched dozens of telera rolls enter the bin and emerge what seemed like .45 seconds later as hungry patrons lined up for tortas.

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The key to good telera is a crispy exterior and a pillowy soft interior. Chef Shaw scoops out some of the bread flesh of the top slice to make room for more sandwich filling. It’s a handy way to keep ingredients in place (and to reduce the number of carbs we’re eating, which is certainly not the purpose, but I live in LA, and this is what we think about).

By the way, if you want to read a brief but interesting history of telera, be sure to check out the Torta Company website.

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I’m still trying to think of how to describe the look of teleras. The best I can come up with is a bread version of a tennis dome. I know — not my best work.

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Let’s get to the good stuff: we begin with the Chorizo Cheesesteak, a gooey, stick-to-your ribs torta whose smokey chipotle mayonnaise makes it warmly decadent. It’s even better dipped in the golden chile sauce that comes on the side. (You’ll see that sauce in another picture; so calm down). By the way, Chef Shaw deserves credit for not only creating these recipes, but artistically staging the tortas too. It’s smart because if it were just up to me, you’d all have some crappy photos to look at right now.

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The top-selling vegetarian option: poblanos with oaxaca cheese. I was a big fan of this one, especially dipped in the aforementioned chili sauce (pictured, finally). According to Chef Shaw, everything is better with poblanos. He even recommended that I add poblanos to whatever dishes I make for Thanksgiving this year. Based on this sandwich, I may have to take his advice.

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This is Chef Shaw’s play on the tuna melt. It’s tuna salad with avocado, Swiss cheese, bread ‘n’ butter jalapeños, and — here’s a twist — a crispy tortilla for texture (it’s sort of like when people put potato chips on sandwiches). I’m happy to report that this all works wonderfully, especially the jalapeños, which provide a sweet and briney punctuation to the tuna — much like the cornichons in Ina Garten’s excellent tuna salad recipe. If tuna’s not your thing, fear not: you can order the bread ‘n’ butter jalapeños as a side. And you should.

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The La Cubana torta. This thing is huge. There’s chicken, there’s ham, there’s cheese, and about 300 other ingredients. Somehow it all works. Definitely the most hearty of the tortas I tried. Get it to quell serious hunger pangs.

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And now a dessert torta. Inspired by the French pain au chocolat (as well as a French neighbor of Chef Shaw’s in Mexico), this sandwich stars some deep, dark chocolate. No complaints here.

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To the gym I go!

Torta Company
735 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 438-6782
tortacompany.com

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