We saw the menu a couple weeks back, and last week I got a chance to preview the food, all of which was as delicious and interesting as we've come to expect from London. Suffice it to say, London has a likely hit on his hands here, with an easy-to-like, concise menu of shawarma-spiced rotisserie chicken — which can be ordered whole for $23, or as a pita sandwich stuffed with veggies and pickles and topped with house-made tahini for $13. It is, easily, the best chicken shawarma sandwich I've had — speaking as someone who's never been to the Middle East.
London explains that he was inspired by memories of being a skateboarder in Montreal and loving the Jewish delis there, specifically Shwartz's Deli and its brisket. That gets translated here into a tender, smoked and slow-braised brisket that comes by the pound ($25) or in a sandwich ($14), which comes stuffed with fries and veggies and topped with a garlicky sauce.
There are also some unique creations, including a riff on pigs in a blanket made with falafel, called "falafel corn dog bites"; and potato hotpockets, a version of a stuffed hash brown, which come either filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and capers; or with avocado, preserved lemon, and grapefruit.
Add to that some excellent hummus and Israeli-inspired sides, like a well spiced cucumber and tomato salad with watermelon and burnt lime, and a vegetarian sandwich option made with char-roasted eggplant and cauliflower. And the condiments — oh the condiments — also show off London's palate, with a version of schug (an herbal, Yemini version of chimichurri or salsa verde), tahini ranch, green tahini, garlic sauce, and amba (a mustardy mango sauce popular in Israel).
London's Bay Area cooking background to date has been almost entirely in semi-fine dining, first at Ubuntu in Napa — where he took over the all-vegetarian restaurant after Jeremy Fox had put it on the map, earning accolades of his own — and then at his own AL's Place in the Mission, which landed the top spot on Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurants list in 2015. London has always shown an amazing facility with vegetable-focused dishes, and while this is a more meat-centric project, the attention to detail in the vegetables and pickles here is evident, and serves to elevate even the humble shawarma sandwich.
As London tells the Chronicle today, "A lot of the things we’re doing come from recipes I’ve played with or served in one version or another AL’s Place. We’re just having some fun with it here."
AL's Deli – Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday, until further notice