Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco set high expectations in the minds of Spanish-speaking eaters by naming one of his tortas La Bomba. I don't speak much Spanish, but my waiter waxed about La Bomba when asked about his favorite sandwich on the menu. Translated to English, La Bomba means, roughly, "da bomb."
In the end, Robson chose the name well. His torta sure is explosive.
Like any grade-A sandwich, each individual component receives love and ultimately has a clear purpose. Like many killer sandwiches, one of those components rises above the rest.
What makes La Bomba truly da bomb is its cheese. Robson grates queso chihuahua onto a griddle, melting it, letting the ultra-thin disc sizzle until golden and crisp. This hot wafer of grilled cheese gets wrapped around al pastor pork. The whole rolled mass fills house-made telara bread, with a few finishing touches (lettuce, mayo), and comes on the plate cut in half.
"La Bomba is for somebody who’s really hungry and craving that super-savory torta," Robson says. "It hits all your senses between the melted cheese, the al pastor, the iceberg, and the little bit of mayo. It's a mouthful of flavor."
The griddled cheese lends texture, fat, and some umami. It elevates al pastor, which Robson, born in Mexico City, grew up eating. He flavors the pork in a marinade of achiote, guajillo, garlic, and other seasonings. With pineapple raising the pork to al pastor style, the sandwich has sweetness and a spellbinding meaty depth you just kind of fall down. It reminds me of Chinese char siu, a Cantonese style of cooking pork with intense spice and a little sweetness to catapult things to another level.
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What's also bomb about this torta is that each bite is different. Some bites you get more pineapple. Some bites bigger pieces of pork, more chewy bread, more cool lettuce.
You can increase the blast radius of La Bomba by reaching for the bottle of red hot sauce that arrives with your food. Powered by chile de árbol, rounded with sesame seeds, charred tomatoes, garlic, and salt, the coarsely pureed sauce has a robust, floral pepper flavor and a nice tide of heat. This flavor and heat jive with the porky puch and sweetness. I can't overstate how dope this hot sauce is. If Robson jarred this stuff and sold it to the region, country, or world, he would be retired and forever sipping mojitos on a beach by 2020.
And he may be yet if he keeps dreaming, executing, and plating such bomb 'wiches.
Gallo Blanco: 602-327-0880; 928 East Pierce Street
Tuesday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Monday