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By Charles Lam
Photo by Tenaya HillsLast year, a Lebanese village briefly entered the Guinness Book of World Recordsafter constructing the world's largest sandwich: 2,362 feet in length, with 309 pounds of labneh, 21,000 olives, and 617 pounds of tomatoes and cucumbers stuffed inside 3,500 loaves of bread. Keep this in mind when you visit Victory Bakery in Anaheim and order their Lebanese sub. Granted, it's somewhat smaller—about nine inches from tip to tip—but Victory's sandwich is no less gargantuan in flavor, and the secret is a humble-looking cooking press and the harshest garlic sauce in the county.
Order the Lebanese sub—it doesn't have a special ethnic name, it's just a sub. After slicing a crunchy baguette in half, tossing in tomatoes, parsley, onions and the meat of your yen and sluicing everything with suety garlic sauce, Victory Bakery's cooks place the sandwich inside a press iron and clamp it down for about five minutes. What was once puffy and fat—like Rosie O'Donnell—slowly collapses within itself—like Rosie O'Donnell. The baguette crackles and flattens and crisps; the roughage miraculously remains fresh; the meat gets cooked again. And the garlic sauce melts—instead of retaining the chunky, meringue-like consistency of the garlic sauces found in most local Middle Eastern restaurants, Victory's sauce becomes runny and seeps into the sandwich and its ingredients.
After five minutes, the cooks open the press, wrap the crushed sandwich in foil and hand it to you. Unwrap it bit by bit lest garlic sauce sully your fingers. Bite. The loaf crumbles into shards in the confines of your mouth. The meat—a spicy soujouk beef sausage, a sour lamb sausage called makanek, buttery lamb tongue or scoops of pale lamb brains—is charred, succulent, remarkable. The veggies burst with a natural snap. But it's the garlic sauce that now dominates your being. At first, it's a gentle pungency—you might even mistake it for tahini. But as you whittle down that sandwich, its blister overwhelms you. You chomp into the remnants of cloves in the sauce and wince. But you continue chomping. The garlic sauce accentuates the other flavors in the sandwich but also rules them, like Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls.
Victory Bakery also sells a grand, moist rotisserie chicken, along with platters featuring falafels or various kebabs. And the small restaurant draws eaters of all ethnicities for its counters and display cases of decadent Middle Eastern pastries—baklava, maamoul, everything. But those are for your fourth visit. Concentrate on Victory's Lebanese sub—this is the best ethnic sandwich in the region. And ask for a breath mint afterward.
VICTORY BAKERY AND RESTAURANT, 951 S. EUCLID ST., ANAHEIM, (714) 776-4493.