Eggslut’s Alvin Cailan Tries Healthy Indulgence at Paper Planes
Long before Alvin Cailan was the chef of Eggslut in Los Angeles, making his name with wantonly yolk-oozing breakfast sandwiches, the first diners to taste his cooking were the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart.
His mother — a Filipino immigrant who keeps a list of Roman Catholic churches in the Los Angeles metropolitan area that she likes to drop into for daily Mass — found out that the nuns needed a dishwasher at their retreat house in Alhambra. Wanting to keep her 15-year-old son out of trouble, she ushered him among the wimples.
When a cook didn’t show up for a shift, Mr. Cailan was handed a knife. He learned his way around a stove and, at home, started doctoring dishes to coax his finicky younger brother to the dining table. (It worked: His brother grew up to be a sommelier.)
Mr. Cailan went on to culinary school and to stints at fine-dining restaurants, then found fame in 2011 with Eggslut, a food truck devoted to egg sandwiches. Waits stretched to two hours long. Four brick-and-mortar locations followed.
But none are planned for New York. Instead, by the end of the year, Mr. Cailan hopes to open Paper Planes, which he envisions as part all-day restaurant, part “nouveau deli.” (He is currently scouting locations in downtown Manhattan.) The menu, including selections he’s been testing out at Stephane De Baets’s Chefs Club Counter in SoHo, reflects his new approach to eating — “the sanity I have when I eat healthier,” he said. “I’m getting older.” (He turned 34 in January.) Out with egg sandwiches; in with salty-sweet bowls of yogurt, chia seeds and fermented coconut water.
This doesn’t mean the end of dripping yolks and melting cheese. “We all want to be healthy, but we all want indulgence,” he said. So mung bean noodles in miso-ginger dressing will come topped with bacon and, yes, a soft-cooked egg. “It has a dan dan mian feel to it,” he said. “The runoff of the egg yolk, the smoky, fatty crumbled bacon. But also a bunch of legumes and pickles, which help the digestive system.”
On the side, Mr. Cailan has been running a Filipino barbecue pop-up called Amboy in an alley off Essex Street in Chinatown, with dishes available for delivery via UberEats; the two dining concepts may eventually share the same space. And part of his culinary heritage could wind up on the Paper Planes menu, too: He’s working on a country pâté that evokes Spam but whose ingredients are “actually identifiable.” Back in Los Angeles, “my mom has a cabinet in her garage full of Spam, corned beef, Vienna sausage,” he said. “We still actively eat it.”
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