1 bowl of Special K with almonds
Filipino Marharlika sausage with grilled onions and sweet peppers
side of fries with chipotle aioli
1 glass of Allegash White beer
Andrew Knowlton, the long-haired and opiniated editor of Bon Appetit who’s a frequent judge on Iron Chef America, just posted his “Top Restaurant Dishes for $10 or Less.” on his blog. I know this is just a ranking of the dishes Knowlton ate this past year and it’s not definitive. Yet I was still surprised by #6, which was the lone entry from Los Angeles: the Filipino Marharlika sausage with grilled onions from Wurstküche. Now I’ve already worked my way through 1/3 of Wurstküche’s menu and enjoyed many a meals of sausages, fries and beers. But I also have yet to eat anything there that would rank as my favorite cheap eat in Los Angeles, much less the United States. I’d rank my Mo-chica meal from the previous day significantly higher, not to mention the countless sandwiches, Mexican food, Chinese cuisine in San Gabriel Valley and what-not in the LA vicinity.
But I’ve also never had the Filipino Marharlika before, so there was no fact-based reason for my skepticism. Since I’m not working, a 20-minute drive to test this opinion was more than reasonable for me. Waiting in line to order, I overheard the other customers in line debate between traditional bratwurst or the more interesting fare like duck-and-bacon, and wonder who amongst themselves are brave enough to order the rattlesnake-and-rabbit . On a menu with such exotic choices, the Filipino Marharlika is pretty unassuming, with the lone description humbly stating that it’s “sweet pork, natural seasonings.”
After trying it, I thought the sausage was… mild. It is sweet, and there is a subtle pork flavor that’s carried a bit by cumin seeds. You can’t add any other assertive flavors on top of it though. Grilled onions and sweet peppers are the only viable topping options that won’t overwhem the Marharlika, and I had to wipe off the mustard for ketchup, which pains me as a transplanted Chicagoan. But the ketchup and onions work and matches pretty well with the sausage’s sweetness. Among Wurstküche’s other mild sausages like bratwurst and alligator, the Marharlika is probably the best one. Sweet-and-salty is always an effective flavor combination. But I usually like the more assertive flavors there. Next time, I’ll probably stick with the duck-and-bacon, the punchy green chile and cilantro or the smoky “Austin Blues.” I am glad that Knowlton got me to order something I otherwise would’ve overlooked. But I still have a hard time believing that it’s the sixth-best budget dish in the United States. As for the Paesano’s sandwich or that $5 bag of homemade pork rinds, I’m willing to believe that.
2 scoops of Breyer’s reduced-fat chocolate ice cream
1 tuna melt
1 can of Diet Coke
5 Oreo cookies
1 cup of milk