Every other Wednesday, Sub Missives tells the stories of the Seattle area's best sandwiches. Know a hot sub? Tell us about it @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
My boyfriend and I call this place the Saucy Sandwich Hole. It's tucked in a strip mall on Highway 99, next to the Lynnwood DMV, and very hard to spot. Open for only a few months, the "GRAND OPENING" sign still hangs in the window, under another sign: Lasa Sandwiches & Pearls.
Lasa means "tasty" in Tagalog, and pearls refer not to jewels but the tapioca bubbles in bubble tea, as it turns out. The sandwiches part of the sign is what we're here for today.
They make six different sandos at Lasa, along with a variety of bubbly and non-bubbly beverages, plus halo-halo, a colorful shaved-ice version of a sundae piled with jelly and fruit and purple ube ice cream and one of those swirly cookie straws. It's unofficially the national dessert of the Philippines. You can also get lumpia, fries, or sisig (sausage) fries with an egg on top. That's the whole menu.
First, let's talk about the lechon kawali roll.
I knocked it out of the park on the first try, only because I saw the word lechon, AKA roasted suckling pig. A kawali is a kind of wok, so lechon kawali is wok-fried pork belly from a baby pig, but it's deep-fried in the wok, which, holy shit. At Lasa, they take a hoagie roll and put half the goddamn piglet in there. It's sliced into crispy, tender strips, lightly lacquered with sweet soy sauce, and sprinkled with lettuce and an herb/green onion/chili mix.
You take a bite, and the rest of the world falls away. The baby pork is so sweet and soft, faintly milk-flavored (hence lechon), accented by the fragile, crackly outer crust of fat, which melts away the veryest second your tongue touches it. Your boyfriend can have a bite but only one. This is his fault for picking the wrong sandwich. You watch him carefully to make sure he doesn't steal a whole strip of lechon via bite, because you would if you were him.
He actually picked a pretty goddamn good sandwich, though, your boyfriend did. The meatball lumpia sub is definitely in second place here. Lined up inside a French roll are four massive beef meatballs. There's cooked vermicelli mixed INSIDE the meatballs, which they've garnished with sweet chili sauce, a crisp and vinegary atsara (pickled green papaya and carrots), and cilantro. Then they stick a fried lumpia wrapper in there like it's a slice of cheese. It's brilliant. It's also a giant, crumbly, chili-saucy mess. A hand-washer for sure.
The adobo pressed pork is possibly the least photogenic sandwich I've ever laid eyes on, even fuglier than a cheesesteak. It's a fucking wreck, juicy pulled porkchunks falling out everywhere, puddles of saucy oil collecting underneath the sandwich like it's a shitty old pickup truck. I took about 200 photos of it, and it looks gnar in all of them. Matters aren't helped by the fact that they put the Swiss on cold when they serve it. But then it melts a little, and you bite and understand.
And, yes, the sandwich's puddles are for sopping. You wanna recycle every drop of those delicious puddles. Unctuous, spicy, porky, acidic, herbal, intense. This sandwich could easily be a number-one in any other restaurant if it didn't have to compete with all these deep-fried pork belly strips and genius feats of meatball engineering.
The other three sams are all more or less tied for last/fourth place but are perfectly cromulent. Look again at the fried chicken on brioche; it's no ordinary fried chicken breast. They've marinated the meat in citrusy, garlicky Filipino adobo before batter treatment, and they've topped it with ranchesque roasted jalapeno sauce. The giant pickle slabs are important players too. The fili-bistek with peppers and provolone is Philly-cheeseteakey. (Get it? Fili-delphia?) The egg with a longganisa patty is breakfast-sandwichey. (It has garlic chives! In the eggs!) They're all bomb as hell.
I also like this place because it's sort of a dichotomy that cancels its own self out. Half the restaurant's menu is devoted to bubble tea, for godsake, and the general decor as well makes the space seem like a snack shop for teens, like something you'd see on the Ave. But its sandwiches are serious cuisine.
Lasa is family-owned and -run, with an eye on freshness and innovation; it's not some doofus in the back with a Fry Daddy cranking out dumbfuck McChickens. There's heritage and tradition and time invested here. The meals are thoughtful and beautiful.
And that lechon roll, man. I'm out of poetry about it. It's just mind-bendingly good.