When I lived in Japan I would often find fliers from pizza places in my mailbox. With their lurid photos of pizzas dotted with cocktail wieners, corn or seaweed, topped with a thick swirl of mayonnaise, they existed on a whole different plane of revolting, far worse than the latest cheese-dipped-and-stuffed, meat-coated Pizza Hut monstrosity. (For example: a giant hot dog on top of bacon on top of cheese stuffed into a pizza crust. Drizzled with mayo, of course.)
But it’s a funny thing about nostalgia: you never know what you’re going to miss.
Okay, so I don’t miss wieners crammed into everything, but I do sometimes crave creative pizza toppings bordering on the repellent, like french fries or poached eggs or mentaiko (spicy pickled fish roe). I miss pizza makers thinking outside the dough circle.
So it was with great joy that I sat down for a meal at Mr. Pizza Factory, the first U.S. branch of the Korean pizza mega-chain. The decor is appropriately garish, like a foreign relative’s interpretation of Italian Old World elegance, involving red velvet, columns and a large trompe l’oeil mural with “Mr. Pizza Factory” fake-carved in fake stone. YES.
The menu is similarly pleasing, offering a number of head-scratching pizzas and pastas, as well as the history and mission statement of Mr. Pizza Factory. Regarding the imminent world takeover by Mr. Pizza Factory:
It has been estimated that approximately 13 hundred million Chinese will love Mr. Pizza and remember it as the best and biggest pizza-maker in China in the years to come.
…Wait, so who exactly figured out these numbers? Esteemed Korean pizzalogists?
The specialty pizzas all sound incredible and have names like “Shrimp Nude” and “Grand Prix.” The latter apparently features a scone crust which, at the end of the meal, you break off and dip into strawberry jam. For dessert. You know, after you’ve eaten the middle of the pizza, which includes such inappropriate toppings as cooked hamburger, cheddar cheese and salsa.
Do you feel like your head’s about to explode? Me too, but in a good way.
We went with the Potato Gold, which features potato wedges, bacon, corn kernels, ground beef, a drizzle of sour cream, a sprinkling of crushed tortilla chips and a crust stuffed with sweet potato puree. We got a pitcher of Stella on the side, a wonderful accompaniment to what is essentially five types of carnival food on one pizza. The strangest thing about this pizza, however, was that it was actually kind of good, the junk food flavors melding with the cheese and tomato sauce into some kind of warped yet wonderful funnel cake.
Also, sweet-potato-puree-stuffed crust? Best idea ever.
I did leave feeling like I had been hit by a bus bearing ten different kinds of starches, but in addition to all those potatoes, I was also full of joy — joy and gratitude toward all the hardworking Korean pizzalogists out there who are coming up with combinations you and I would never dream of. I salute you.
Mr. Pizza Factory
3881 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90005