Plan Check Kitchen + Bar
1111 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90017
At this point it’s pretty safe to say that Plan Check has blown up. Once little more than an insider’s favorite on Sawtelle, it eased it’s way out to Fairfax before venturing Downtown. Now, apparently, it’s even got plans to take over Pasadena. Now, Plan Check’s expansion isn’t the only indicator of Ernesto Uchimura’s entrepreneurial spirit (or, one might worry, culinary restlessness). The Salty Dog, the progeny of his recent partnership with Princess Cruises (I know), is another indication.
While it is admittedly concerning that Uchimura is taking to the seven seas, his innovative impulses and the skeptical eye he casts on the conventional is what makes Plan Check so alluring, and ultimately, so successful. Skepticism is not the same as dismissal. Uchimura does not reject the conventional out of hand. Nor, however, does he respect it simply because it has been done and repeated. His goal with Plan Check seems to be to elevate the conventional.
That, of course, is a laudable goal. And based on the measure of success he and business partner Terry Heller have found with Plan Check, he seems to be on to something. Abbe and I went to evaluate this (and the other highlights of the menu, which include the fried chicken). This dinner brought to light several things, including without limitation a) she’s a relatively big deal, b) I’m not, and c) it was surprisingly easy to convince myself that I had anything to do with the free dessert our server gave us, and d) they serve a burger worth talking about.
The Order: PCB (Plan Check Burger: Americanized dashi cheese, ketchup leather, schmaltz onions, mixed pickles, crunch bun)
The Price: $12.00
Let’s all admit one thing right out of the gates: none of us really know what any of the ingredients mean. The descriptions are indecipherable, shrouded in a thick fog of hipster pretension. Seriously, Ernesto Uchimura speaks a language so obscure and awesome that only he understands it. He’s like the windtalkers, only he’s making up words. And he’s a hipster. So he’s nothing like the windtalkers.
I may not be able to tell you what they are, but I can tell you how they made me feel: good. The cheese was superlative. It was as gooey as cheese whiz, a dripping, milky, amorphous coat that sits dripping atop the patty upon arrival before being almost absorbed into it. That’s a weird thing: the patty is like a sponge. It sucks in the flavors of the cheese and the dehydrated ketchup (ketchup leather is a deeply unappetizing but oddly apt moniker for it). The meat itself is healthily charred, competently cooked, and subtly infused with the flavors of the other toppings as well as that of the grill and the simple salt-heavy seasoning.
Rather than featuring bold, assertive flavors, the Plan Check Burger suggests them. Whispering remnants of ketchup and cheese and salt and char intermingle with that of the beef, giving it a complexity that far outstrips its inherent flavor profile. Try as I might, I’ll never understand how Uchimura managed that. Science.
The pickles are bright and sour, but delicate enough not to overshadow the subtle interactions between the other ingredients. This is a professionally assembled burger that is masterfully crafted to project deceptive simplicity. But this burger is anything but simple. It is a symphony heard from a distance; a muted assembly of the bold. Even the bun is deceptively simple, offering a gentle crunch to complement its sweet, cloudlike delicacy. Only the onions are forgettable; insipid and blunt, they are lost in the otherwise expert shuffle.
This is an innovative burger. From its solid state sauce presentations and saucy cheese to its impressionable patty and spry pickles, you will be surprised. At the price point, it is something approaching highway robbery. This is one to order and reorder. Though imperfect, it is one you will remember.
Flavor: 9.20 / 10.00
Freshness/Quality: 9.00 / 10.00
Value: 9.30 / 10.00
Efficiency: 8.30 / 10.00
Creativity/Style: 9.40 / 10.00
Bun: 8.90 / 10.00
Patty: 9.00 / 10.00
Toppings: 8.20 / 10.00
Sauce: 8.80 / 10.00
Balance: 9.70 / 10.00
Total: 89.80 / 100.00