September 23, 2018

The Carving Board takes sandwiches to new heights

It may sound like a sin to order spaghetti at an artisan sandwich shop, but not when the pasta is the bread.

“We actually take cooked spaghetti, mix it with some binding ingredients and bake it into a bread,” said David Adir, co-owner of The Carving Board restaurants with his brother Yovie. “Basically, you’re eating a spaghetti flatbread.”

The slightly crunchy, swirly, cerebrum-looking result provides the perfect bookends to — what else? — a spaghetti and meatball sandwich that popped up on their menu as a recent special.

“To keep the menu fresh and to keep the menu kind of energetic, we create a new sandwich every two weeks,” Adir said.

And that’s something he and his brother — both bachelors in their 30s who live together in Woodland Hills — love more than anything.

“Honestly, I love sandwiches. So does my brother. It’s something we enjoy,” Adir said.

So when they started their first restaurant in Tarzana in 2012, there was no question what it would feature.

“When we initially wrote the menu, it was more about the food that we enjoyed, and then it was a trial-and-error process,” he said.

The pair grew up in Miami, the sons of an Israeli father and a Brooklyn-born mother. They started working in the fast-food business as teens and fell in love with it as they worked their way through all aspects of the enterprise. When they grew older, they hopped in a car and headed west, looking for a change.

Eventually, they took their years of accumulated knowledge — all they loved and all they hated about the industry — and made a plan to enter the “fast-casual” food industry, which seemed to have done well during the Great Recession. 

Then the real fun began.

“We wrote the menu out, and then a few weeks before we were ready to launch, we made every sandwich — experimented all day, every day,” Adir said. “We did all of the work ourselves on the menu.”

Each brings a little something different to the (carving) table — Adir has a love of meats, turkey and chicken while his brother has a soft spot for seafood. And while Adir admits that “we absolutely fight,” the restaurant always comes first. 

What they’ve created together on Ventura Boulevard is a popular space with wood-top tables and a clean, crisp aesthetic. It has since blossomed into locations in West Los Angeles, Hollywood and, soon, Burbank.

And the menu remains undeniably theirs. Consider the Turkey Dinner, crammed full of roasted turkey (light and dark meat), stuffing, dried cranberries and grilled onions — plus gravy, of course.

“It’s a sandwich that I am excited to eat after Thanksgiving,” Adir said. “We have leftovers and I just make this massive sandwich. I decided to do it the way I like it.”

Sandwiches arrive artfully displayed on a wooden carving board next to a fresh mound of mixed greens or large, crispy homemade potato chips that are sculptural — and gastronomical — masterpieces. (Special sides, such as tomato soup and kale pasta salad, are available for an extra charge.)

The Bentley sandwich, famous among customers for its filet mignon and blue cheese (The Carving Board is not kosher), may win first-in-class as the most popular item on the menu, but the Big Kahuna also is a thing of beauty. A tower of seared ahi tuna on a brioche bun, it’s topped by an impeccable flower-shaped design of cucumbers, thin red onion slices, tomato and marinated seaweed.

There are tender burgers and breakfast sandwiches, as well as a selection of creatively constructed grilled cheese sandwiches. If the latter were only perfectly toasted — light on the sides, brown in the middle — dayenu! — but offerings like the French Onion Grilled Cheese, oozing with gruyere, really do taste like you’re eating soup in a sandwich. (And they’re cut into triangles, natch.)

The French Onion Grilled Cheese sandwich.

There are a variety of salads and cold sandwiches, too. Vegetarians may be drawn to the Roughage sandwich (mozzarella, portobello mushroom, basil, cucumber, tomato, avocado and lettuce on sliced nine-grain bread), while turkey lovers who appreciate the savory/sweet contrast of goat cheese and dried cranberries can try the Sweet November. 

And for dessert? Yes, there’s cotton candy and fried candy bars, but don’t overlook the simple goodness of The Carving Board’s medley of freshly baked cookies. Representing four different flavors, including Lemon Cooler, they’re richer, softer and — gasp! — better than Mom used to make.

A medley of freshly baked cookies.

“We just serve good food — quality ingredients and good food,” Adir said. “There’s nothing on the menu that’s erroneous. Everything on the menu is great.”

That’s not to say that every combination they’ve tried has worked.

“We definitely didn’t get it right the first time,” Adir said. “I deep-fried an egg. … I was like, ‘Hey, let’s see what happens.’ I cracked an egg into a fryer and it just dissipated!”

Who knows what the brothers will come up with next, but their guiding principle, according to Adir, will remain simple.

“We’re trying to make good food for people who like food.”