You probably know M. Night Shyamalan as the writer of movies with twists you should’ve seen coming. But did you know he also helped punch-up the script for She’s All That ?
In a weird way, once you know that bit of trivia, you can start to understand Konbi, the tiny daytime restaurant in Echo Park. It’s best known for a photogenic egg salad sandwich, but actually, it’s all the other stuff that makes it truly great.
If you spent any time on Instagram in late 2018, you’ll be familiar with the egg salad sandwich that’s become Konbi’s signature dish. Served on soft Japanese milk bread, it’s the platonic ideal of a lunchbox sandwich, and while it isn’t exactly life-changing, it does have a nice kick of dijon and plenty of scallions, and ends up disappearing from your plate quickly. It’s good - but we prefer the pork katsu sandwich. It doesn’t look as nice, but it tastes better, with just the right amount of tangy Japanese barbecue sauce on the crunchy breaded pork.
And that’s the thing about Konbi. While people treat the egg salad like it's Haley Joel Osment in 1999, the rest of the food is what you should be paying attention to. The vegetable dishes, like a vinegary potato salad, occasionally come out a little too cold, but once they get to room temperature, they’re universally fantastic. Another thing people should be talking about more is Konbi’s Japanese breakfast set: miso soup, a soba tea egg, fish, vegetables, and rice. It’s excellent. And if you time things right (sitting down a bit before 9am is the sweet spot), you’ll watch a tray of croissants go into the oven, and 15 minutes later you’ll eat one of the best pastries in Los Angeles.
Also, Konbi is just a nice place to be when you want a low-key meal. It’s a narrow space with a takeout window up front, a skinny kitchen that runs the length of the room, lots of natural light streaming in, and just 10 seats at a low counter where you’ll be served by friendly waitstaff and chefs. You may have to wait for a seat at lunch, but no one will try to rush you through your meal.
Sure, the egg sandwich is what Konbi’s famous for. But then you get to the croissants, the potato salad, and the Japanese breakfast, and you realize the best parts of this place are hiding in plain sight. Just like the fact that Bruce Willis’ character was dead in The Sixth Sense. Shyamalan strikes again.
This is a good egg salad sandwich. Not as good as all the photos might lead you to believe, but still - a good egg salad sandwich.
This sandwich, however, is better. The eggplant version is pretty great too.
Even if you don’t get to Konbi in time for fresh-out-of-the-oven croissants, you should make getting a pastry here a priority. The custardy canelé are just as good as the flaky chocolate croissants.
A $3 plate of pickles probably isn’t going to jump out at you, but these are truly fantastic, and great for cutting the richness of the sandwiches.
It’s just a bowl of leaves with sugar snap peas, hazelnuts, and chickpea miso vinaigrette. Which is to say, it’s a truly fantastic salad.
This occasionally comes straight out of the fridge, which is unfortunate because when it’s too cold, it doesn’t really taste like anything. Once it’s at room temperature though, the vinegar comes through and you won’t be able to stop eating it.
Mornings at Konbi are quiet and wonderful. You could just come for a pastry, but this fairly traditional set with fish, rice, vegetables, and miso is something special, too.