By Hannah Han ’21
Clusters of small, brightly-lit Asian restaurants and dessert shops line the populated streets of Sawtelle Boulevard in West Los Angeles. Sawtelle is busy and popular, a cacophony of honking cars and chattering pedestrians strolling down the congested sidewalks. It is a unique intersection of different cultures and foods, making it a desirable destination.
A few blocks north of the bustling main hub of Sawtelle is an inconspicuous restaurant named Plan Check. Plan Check serves American food and is most famous for its Plan Check Burger (PCB) and Cruller doughnuts, as well as its Da Buck Fity Wings.
Plan Check has restaurants located in Santa Monica, Downtown Los Angeles, Fairfax and Sawtelle, and the food is reasonably priced, with dishes ranging from $6 to $23.
The decor is clean, modern and industrial, with polished wooden tables and metal bar stools.
Customers usually sit on the patio, so the inside of the restaurant is quiet and dim, lit only by fluorescent fixtures hanging from the ceiling.
The Smokey Fried Chicken is one of Plan Check’s most popular dinner items and, like most of the dishes on the restaurant’s menu, it is served in a small cast iron platter. Chunks of tender, moist chicken coated in crispy batter lie in a pool of smoked milk gravy. Two spicy, pickled okras are arranged artfully on the platter, and a small pile of sweet yam preserves sits underneath a chicken leg. While the chicken is cooked perfectly, the batter is bland, and the puddle of gravy is mediocre at best, more similar in taste to lukewarm fatty mayonnaise than traditional Thanksgiving gravy. The dollop of sweet yam preserves is the highlight of the dish; reminiscent of autumn, the yams add some needed color to the meal.
The Plan Check Burger (PCB), the restaurant’s specialty, is served in a black cast iron dish as well. Panko bread crumbs are sprinkled liberally across the top bun of the burger, adding a crunchy, textured layer to the warm dome of bread. Sandwiched in between the two buns of the burger are layers of caramelized schmaltz onions, cold mixed pickles and warm, half-melted Americanized dashi cheese. A thin sheet of Ketchup Leather, a dehydrated square of house-made ketchup invented by the Plan Check franchise, melts into the patty, adding to the complexity of the dish. Every bite reveals layers of hard work and time, from the briny, perfectly-grilled beef to the ingeniously-crafted square of Ketchup Leather.
Both the chicken and PCB can be accompanied by a side of fries, either sweet potato or regular. The potatoes, which are fried in tallow fat, are crunchy and browned, and the insides are deliciously warm and starchy. The French fries are served with a side of house-made, unrefined ketchup, similar in taste to salsa.
Overall, the PCB was much more satisfying than the Smokey Fried Chicken. Although the food was a bit lacking in some respects, for the most part, it was well-prepared and artfully crafted.