Jonathan Gold for The Times
December 7, 2013
State Bird Provisions is probably the most influential restaurant to have opened in the United States last year, a smallish place in San Francisco's Western Addition that supplements the small plates issuing from its open kitchen with even smaller plates served from carts circulating the restaurant, kind of like dim sum. It keeps its customers off-guard — it is difficult to formulate an ordering strategy, so you end up with twice as much food as you had intended to get, which means that the restaurant makes money, its patrons are dazzled by their own spontaneity and everybody is happy. The food is very good.
November 16, 2013
When I worked at a local alternative weekly in the 1980s, one of the editors instituted an informal ban on the phrase "on acid" in reviews because the locution was clichéd and because it was so hard to figure out what a chocolate mousse on acid might really be like. The foggy psychedelia was far more likely to exist in your mind than it was on the plate.
November 9, 2013
We have talked before about the gentrification of deep downtown, the colorful area familiar from dystopian novels and Tom Waits lyrics that has become the most reliable destination in town for bespoke cocktails, vintage party dresses and monogrammed dog bowls. And among the incongruous and wonderful things to have opened near the newly scrubbed corner of 4th and Main, that former nexus of flophouses and all-night porn theaters, none may stick out more than Zo, the new downtown sister to the Westside's Sushi Zo, which serves $145 omakase tasting menus in a neighborhood that has not completely shrugged off its aura of loosies and cheap wine.
November 2, 2013
If you have spent much time in L.A.'s farmers markets, you have probably run into C.J., Chris Jacobson, an affable chef, tall enough to be an NBA power forward, who seems to know every farmer in town. He worked on the line for a while at the old Campanile, where everybody called him Stretch, and he ran the Yard, a small gastropub in Santa Monica known for its beer list and fish tacos but which he managed to nudge toward fine dining at the end.
October 19, 2013
New restaurants have been opening downtown in impressive numbers this year, important places, many of them, carved out of the grand Beaux-Arts spaces some of us forgot even existed in Los Angeles, fitted with elegant cocktail menus, equipped with culinary pedigrees. People have stopped complaining that all the good new restaurants are on the Westside and started complaining that all the good new restaurants are downtown — and a decade ago not even the most ardent advocate of Historic Core redevelopment could have predicted $150 omakase sushi on Main Street, or refined tasting-menu restaurants, or Italian kitchens finicky about the provenance of their buffalo mozzarella. Even with setbacks like the recent closing of the gastropub Parish, it is clear that valet parking is winning out over the SROs.
October 12, 2013
It is possible to reserve a table at Fishing With Dynamite, I have heard, to make a phone call or to get lucky on Open Table, or to walk into the 33-seat restaurant directly from an afternoon at the beach. You might even catch a sliver of sunset from the not-quite-ocean-view restaurant. If a developer could include a guaranteed seat at the oyster bar in the price of a new beach condo, he or she could probably tack an extra hundred grand onto the price. A glass of Sancerre, a half-dozen Naked Cowboys and blasting Bob Seger may be why you move to Manhattan Beach, or so I dream. The rest of us will have to settle for leaving our names at the door, grabbing a pale ale down the block and sauntering back when the magic hour grows near. There are worse ways to spend a warm Friday evening.
October 5, 2013
Is it fair to judge a new restaurant by one dish? Because as much as I would like to concentrate on the fried cauliflower or delicious crab crostino with lardo at Bucato, the new restaurant from Evan Funke, whom you may remember from his term at Rustic Canyon, I am finding it difficult to move beyond the idea of his version of cacio e pepe, a Roman standard that is nothing more than spaghetti tossed with sheep cheese and a lot of cracked pepper. Cacio e pepe may be both the simplest and most difficult pasta in the Italian repertoire, and from it you can learn almost everything about a cook. I've cooked the dish a hundred times at home, and I think I've gotten it right maybe three or four times.
September 28, 2013
If you follow the restaurant scene in Los Angeles, you have known about Govind Armstrong for years, possibly since he was a teenage cooking prodigy whose mom drove him to stints on the line at the original Spago the way that other moms drive their kids to Little League practice. Or perhaps you know him from his long collaboration with locavore Ben Ford, or from his solo gigs at Table 8 and 8 Oz. Burger Bar. You may have followed Armstrong's short-lived adventure in New York, which wasn't well-received, and his appearances on "Top Chef" and on the list of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People.
September 14, 2013
There is the line at Marugame Monzo, curling into the somewhat longer line outside the ramen shop Daikokuya a few feet away. There is cold Asahi on tap and a stunningly good appetizer of tempura-fried chicken skin. The raw, sliced Hokkaido scallops with tiny flying fish roe are delicious. The grilled chicken breast with buttery grated ginger is among the better chicken dishes in Little Tokyo.
September 7, 2013
How do you know you're in a serious restaurant at the moment — a place where the chef ferments his own turnips, keeps a copy of "Modernist Cuisine" by his bedside and dreams of visiting Spain's Mugaritz restaurant?There will probably be a seaweed or two on any given plate, for the color, the crunch and the occasional spark of brininess, and bits of citrus zest will make it into places where you have never tasted citrus before. You will see at least one slow-poached egg, cooked to a perfect near-runniness at 63 degrees Celsius; top-shelf boutique greens that disappear long before you straggle into the farmers market on Wednesday morning; and a couple of flavors snagged from the bartender's cache.
August 17, 2013
Michael Cimarusti is the chef of Providence, the modernist French-Asian restaurant that is often considered the finest kitchen in L.A. He can do things with sea urchin, Santa Barbara spot prawns and Japanese sea bream that occasionally cause reactions I probably can't describe in a family newspaper. So it is important to note that Connie and Ted's, already one of the toughest reservations in town, is neither a chefly interpretation of a Rhode Island clam shack nor a fantasia on the theme of New England seafood.
5:45 PM EDT, March 22, 2013
Jonathan Gold tests your knowledge of beef, food and Islam and more.
March 30, 2013
Muddy Leek is in kind of an odd location, just a block or two away from the restaurants in Culver City's Helms complex yet seemingly well outside of the area. It's part of a building that briefly served as a design museum before it was converted into architects' offices, in an awkwardly proportioned space that runs through restaurant identities like Spinal Tap goes through drummers.
March 16, 2013
Counter Intelligence: Jonathan Gold | L.A. restaurant review: Littlefork takes a big-eats turn north
Across the street from the Hollywood post office, a few short blocks from the 1930s complex that calls itself Crossroads of the World, Littlefork is an improbably rustic roadhouse in the middle of old Hollywood — a spare tavern, a slash of neon scrawl and a slender apron of parking lot you could imagine filling up with Packards instead of Lexus hybrids.
March 9, 2013
When you tell somebody about a Hunan restaurant, always begin with the steamed fish head. The fish head will be large, probably from an enormous carp or similar freshwater species, thus comical, and it will be frosted with the chopped blend of dried, fresh and fermented chiles that give Hunanese cooking its reputation for head-snapping heat.
March 2, 2013
Hinoki is a fragrant cypress most Japanese associate with extremely expensive bathtubs, popular with the wealthy because the wood is used to build the soaking tubs at onsen, Japanese hot springs. Hinoki wood is also used to build the counters of the most prestigious sushi bars; long, smooth planks that are sanded every day and given weekly baths of milk.
February 16, 2013
California rarely feels more like California than it does from a window seat at the new Hostaria del Piccolo in Venice, where life's great pageant rolls by. Graying tax attorneys cruise by on Rollerblades, women toss yoga mats into the back of their Porsches and handsome young families roll by on their bicycles as serenely as if they were ducks. As you regard the glass of wine in front of you, you may contemplate a Westside drinking game, doing shots of on-tap Merlot every time you spot a dude with interesting facial hair, a knit cap, tie-dye and a skateboard; hear a distant drum circle; or smell a clove cigarette.
February 9, 2013
Le Ka is one of those difficult places to figure out, not because the cooking isn't good — it is, very — but because in the narrative of Le Ka, food seems like such a secondary thing. To get to the restaurant, you leave your car with a valet in an underground garage, hike back up the ramp (the elevator goes nowhere near where you want to be) and walk around the corner, passing two or three false entrances you may try to access, finally ending up in a dim vestibule that is far grander than you may imagine it to be.
January 26, 2013
What you think about Cortez is going to depend in large part on what you think about crowds, and noise, and screechy jazz, about well-meaning servers who are slightly impatient with the idea of service, and about spending most of an hour leaning up against a shoe box-narrow windowsill waiting for a seat to open up.
January 19, 2013
When you talk to Texas expatriates about the food they miss most from home, after a few grumbly sentences about Los Angeles chili, and barbecue, and coffee-shop chicken-fried steak, it comes down to the queso every time. I am not one of those writers who harps on authenticity, and when I have a shot or two of tequila in me, I can even admit the merits of Tex-Mex as a regional Mexican cuisine. Migas, the spicy Tex-Mex equivalent of chilaquiles, are among the greatest breakfast foods ever invented. My favorite cooking video ever is the clip of Texas director Robert Rodriguez making his breakfast tacos: "Get those flour tortillas, the ones you usually find at the store … and throw them in the trash."
January 12, 2013
If you want to understand Bestia, you should probably take a look at the cassoeula, a version of a traditional cabbage stew popular in Milan.
December 29, 2012
Have you ever had the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich at the new Storefront Deli in Los Feliz? Because that sandwich, less made from scratch than reverse-engineered from a meat lover's fondest late-summer daydreams, is at the heart of one of the strongest culinary movements in the country at the moment: the radical reinvention of everyday dishes by deconstructing them and rebuilding them to the tiniest detail.
December 22, 2012
The first responsibility of any great restaurant is to keep you in the bubble, the soft-serve cocoon of illusion where you forget the world exists for anything but your pleasure. And the newly redesigned Spago, from the moment you toss your keys to the valet to the moment you stagger back out again, gives good bubble.
December 8, 2012
If you had asked an observer a few years ago whether the future of dining in Los Angeles was more likely to be influenced by its mobile restaurants or its pop-ups, the money would have been on the trucks. Food trucks seemed to draw from everything about L.A. in 2010 — mobility, multiculturalism, social-media compulsion and the ceaseless drive toward novelty. The food truck culture rewards the short attention span. It rewards it with kimchi cheesesteaks.
December 1, 2012
Let's say that a correspondent has asked if you have been to the new Wuhan restaurant in San Gabriel, and let's say that you answer him, to save face, with the Internet equivalent of a smile and a nod. It is easy enough to find this restaurant — a quick Google search turns up a Facebook page, a post on a friend's blog and a Chowhound post by your correspondent, the San Gabriel Valley spicy-food maven Jim Thurman, whom I suspect has been the first customer at more than one Rosemead dan dan mian establishment. It is easy enough to find the restaurant, Tasty Dining, which is in a strip mall you have been frequenting since the 1990s, in a space you remember as a boba parlor.
November 24, 2012
We are second to none in our admiration for pie, which, at its best, marries homeyness with elegance. It is the great American dessert. But we don't make it athomenearly as often as we should, because the crust, at least the right crust, is kind of a pain. This is why we love ordering pie in restaurants — somebody else has done the rolling and the chilling, worried about the correct shortening and performed the rituals of blind baking that too often leave us with burnt or shrunken dough.
November 10, 2012
Meet Kang Ho-dong. Kang Ho-dong is a South Korean celebrity, a former wrestler turned TV personality whose ubiquity on Korean television approaches what you might get if you added Ryan Seacrest's TV appearances to those of Charlie Sheen's. Last year, before his career was briefly interrupted by accusations of tax evasion, since tossed out of court, Kang starred in four prime-time shows: three variety hours, plus a reality show that combined travelogue with aspects of "Celebrity Rehab."
November 3, 2012
It is 10 in the evening, West Hollywood has just begun to ramp up into the night and three dozen people are lined up outside Laurel Hardware, the fashionable restaurant of the moment. It is the weekend before Halloween, which means bits of the usual sorts of costumes are on the boulevard: size 13 heels and ragged scraps of lace, kitten ears and satin bow ties. A woman saunters up to the restaurant, bouffant freshly blond, wrapped in what looks like a replica of a Mead three-ring notebook. A few paces closer to the door is a redhead also wearing Staples' finest. The blond glares. The redhead shrugs. A moment later they are together in the line, two binders full of women talking and giggling.
October 27, 2012
Have you been to Tom Bergin's Tavern lately? No — not Molly Malone's, the pub with the bands; the other one on Fairfax, a few blocks south, with the Irish coffee and the old Bing Crosby vibe. Bergin's has been a fascinating place since Brandon Boudet took it over last summer, partly because you're unsure whether you have fallen prey to an elaborate put-on or whether you really have stepped back into Raymond Chandler's L.A., whether the names of the paper shamrocks still stapled to the ceiling are of authentic provenance and whether the dinginess of the barroom is real.
October 20, 2012
When I am trying to explain the concept of modernist cooking to a friend who has experienced neither encapsulated olives nor edible menus printed with organic ink, I sometimes bring up the burgers concocted by Nathan Myhrvold, a software pioneer who has lately diversified into maximum-tech cooking, among other things. His recipe, which appears in his 2,400-page opus, "Modernist Cuisine," involves sous-vide, liquid nitrogen, a deep-fat fryer and homemade processed cheese, and is not much less complex, I suspect, than the directions for rebuilding a Porsche.
October 13, 2012
Are you a connoisseur of agony? Then drop by Starry Kitchen for a bite some evening, somewhere around 9 p.m. if you can swing it, and listen to the customers who have been denied a shot at the Singaporean chili crab. They will be muttering imprecations when they think the staff is out of listening range, grinding teeth, staring up at the glittering pastels of the high ceiling as if they expect a unicorn to flutter down from the rafters with a sackful of British Columbia's finest culinary export.
October 6, 2012
If you were to invent a restaurant whose specialties include a cauliflower T-bone, you probably couldn't do any better than Superba Snack Bar. It occupies what looks like a corrugated shoe box sliced open at one end, a giant version of the dioramas you may have constructed for social studies in fourth grade. Superba is at the heart of its Rose Avenue neighborhood in a stretch of Venice Beach where the fixed-gear bicycles outnumber cars some afternoons and even the elderly seem acquainted with kombucha and Lululemon.
September 29, 2012
The restaurant business is remarkably volatile, and anyone who has spent much time around it is used to seeing his or her favorites sputter out of business after good long runs. You grow up going to Angeli, you have your first date there, you become a regular when you get your first grown-up job, and — boom, it's gone. Your favorite chef meets a payroll he can't handle; your favorite bar turns into a shul. It's sad, but it's understood.
September 22, 2012
In Los Angeles, your next great meal could be anywhere, from a pop-up installed in an art gallery to the truck parked outside the place where you get coffee in the morning. If you've been here awhile, you almost expect your bliss to come from that place in the mini-mall next to the dry cleaners.
September 8, 2012
Sang Yoon started the no-substitutions or modifications trope at Father's Office, I think, where he refused to serve his notorious hamburger without blue cheese or countenance ketchup on his fries. Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook turned it into an aesthetic at Animal; you ate their pig's ears and oxtail loco moco their way or you didn't eat it at all. The chefs at sushi bars like Nozawa and Hiko famously threw patrons out of their restaurants when they asked for spicy tuna rolls, and I have no idea what Jordan Kahn at Red Medicine might do if a table asked for the sauce on the side.
September 1, 2012
Industriel, it should be mentioned, is a restaurant that can leave a certain kind of person sputtering with rage. It is decorated in a kind of Depression chic, for one thing. Walls are paneled with old wooden soda crates. Banquettes are upholstered in a gold vinyl you may have never seen outside cocktail lounges attached to ancient Midwestern bowling alleys. And the not-unplentiful homeless people on the street outside are confronted with the enormous blowups of Dorothea Lange's photographs of starving Depression-era migrant workers that flank the doors.
August 25, 2012
The atmosphere at Sycamore Kitchen is relaxed, but make no mistake: The husband-and-wife team behind the restaurant obsesses over every detail of every dish.
August 19, 2012
Hui Tou Xiang Noodles House in San Gabriel done a lot of things just fine, but the reason to go is in the name.
August 11, 2012
Shunji Japanese Cuisine, from chef Shunji Nakao, is located in what looks like a big chili bowl but is upscale and inventive, with special attention paid to vegetables.
July 28, 2012
If you're keeping score at home, Next Door by Josie was probably first on bacon popcorn — practically a pioneer — although it opened just last fall in Santa Monica.
August 4, 2012
To understand Red Hill, Jason Michaud and Trevor Rocco's newish place in a converted Chinese bakery just north of Sunset, you could do worse than to look at the bread-and-butter plate, a once-free nicety that has evolved into an item of competition in L.A.'s new surge of small-plates restaurants.
July 21, 2012
Have you been to the new Mo-Chica? Ricardo Zarate's Peruvian restaurant seems to define the downtown thing at the moment: It's a high-style warren on 7th Street, down the block from Bottega Louie, where the scene is as important as the drinks, and the drinks are as vital as the food.
12:42 PM EDT, July 6, 2012
Pulling back from the whole gastropub scene, the Pikey offers three beers on tap, food kicked up a notch with fresh ingredients and a little imagination, and an atmosphere even an Iron Maiden roadie could appreciate.
2:01 PM EDT, June 29, 2012
At Maison Giraud, the croissants are as good if not better than ones you'd find in Paris. Alain Giraud may be the last true French chef standing in Los Angeles.
4:56 PM EDT, June 27, 2012
A law against serving the fatted liver of ducks and geese goes into effect Sunday. As some restaurants host farewell dinners, a gaggle of chefs, farmers and connoisseurs sees it as a feather-headed intrusion on culinary freedom.
5:10 PM EDT, June 1, 2012
Ricardo Diaz has another hit with this Whittier spot, offering excellent fried huauzontle, best-in-town guacamole, fiery tacos, satisfying mole fries and a sweet capirotada.
3:31 PM EDT, May 11, 2012
A wealth of imagination is on the menu at the multi-kitchen restaurant: Rethink that pastrami sandwich, a bourbon cocktail, the PB&J.
May 5, 2012
Wine is important at Andrew Kirschner's new restaurant, but so is the food, starting with the lardon- and chile-laced popcorn appetizer. From there, it's a serious but playful mix of wood-fired small-plate temptations.
2:26 PM EDT, April 20, 2012
Have you ever been frightened by a dumpling? Truly, genuinely scared? Because the juicy crab and pork buns at Wang Xing Ji — smoking-hot dumplings the size of water balloons, sneakily full of boiling juice — could probably be weaponized.
April 14, 2012
Cactus is everywhere at Rocio's Mole de los Dioses, but what you come for is mole. A Mt. Olympus of mole.
5:25 PM EDT, March 23, 2012
At the new restaurant from chef Daniel Mattern and pastry chef Roxana Jullapat, it's not a dish you fall in love with, it's a sensibility.
March 17, 2012
LàOn Dining, from Jenee Kim (Park's BBQ, Don Dae Gam), offers 'Korean tapas.' Whatever you call the food, this may be L.A.'s first modern Korean restaurant.
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