Restaurant review: Philippe’s French Dip – Germinal for the new millennium:
The French Dip sandwich is a wholly American invention and yet Philippe’s does have a few Gallic elements, not just the name. The bread is decent, the mustard outstanding, the grilled/stewed meats are of high quality and the wine selection is on par with much higher end places. I have no problem admitting that the sandwiches are delicious and of the highest quality.
The sawdust on the floor is a nice touch as well, not in the “Western” saloon fashion but more like a bistro back on the continent. However, one can’t help but be reminded that during the collapse of the Ancien Regime, the peasants and workers were hoodwinked, particularly in the introduction of the Republican Calendar. While the months with evocative names like Floreal and Thermidor, the latter giving name to the famous lobster dish, were romantic and utopian, the reality was that breaking up the work week and the months into a decimal system made the peasants work longer until they had a day off for church. The seven day week with Sunday off was replaced by a ten day week. Kind of like voting for Trump. Anyway, we see this in action at Philippe’s. The descent into Philippe’s is literal, there are several steps one takes to reach the counter area where you place your order and this descent combined with the fragrant smells of ham, beef, turkey and lamb reminds one of the olfactory onanism of Joris-Karl Huysman’s great work of decadent fiction “La Bas” But that is where the decadence ends. Once the descent is complete, one is transported instead into a Zola-esque nightmare of workers carving meat, serving starving Angelenos who are in their own private hell waiting for their food. Like Zola and Jagger/Richards, we sense that war, children, is just a shot away. A tinderbox waiting to explode…
One need not go further than the highly controversial founder of the French Revolution, Saint-Juste whose ideas were as radical as Stalin or St Paul: “A nation regenerates itself only upon heaps of corpses.”
A+ for food. F- for a social disaster waiting to happen.