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Week in Reviews: Brenner and the Penthouse, Kuh Goes to Gonpachi, Plus Murano, Simon LA and More

(1) LAT's food section editor Leslie Brenner takes a stab at The Penthouse today, the chic restaurant at the top of the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica. A stab right through the heart, actually. Brenner has more of an edge to her criticism than Miss Irene, and most of this week's review is positively biting. She calls the crowd "scrappy," the cabana booths too big, the hostess has a bad attitude, the place is all around too loud, and the menu simply left her with a lot of questions:

Here that Cobb thing is a deconstructed salad: dainty rows of chopped tomato, egg, bacon, avocado, blue cheese and chicken, then next to that a pile of dressed, shredded lettuce. A cute idea, but then what? Mix it all up? Just add a little of this and a little of that? Take tiny bites of bacon, then egg, then tomato?

What's going on in that kitchen — is the chef purchasing lesser ingredients, or is there a deflavorizing machine back there? Clearly, no one is tasting the food that's coming out, and just about everything is underseasoned.

Rough. Brenner commends the service and cocktails, and gives the Penthouse one star. A side note: We're by far immune to grammatical and occasional factual errors, but we found a few inaccuracies in today's review. Minor details, but we're not the LAT, the "professionals"; we're just bloggers. (Ask Mario, he'll explain the difference.) The Penthouse is actually on the 18th floor of the hotel, not the 17th; it's Cabo Wabo tequila, not Wabo Cabo; and for a restaurant not attracting A-listers (a criteria we didn't know made a restaurant a good restaurant) several celebs have discovered it. Just sayin. Perhaps when the LAT food blog launches, these things will be easier to correct. BTW, Brenner told us it's coming soon, and that all the current food section writers will contribute. [LAT]

(2) Los Angeles magazine's Patric Kuh makes a special appearance this week since his July review of Gonpachi is already online. Kuh notes that the mammoth Japanese restaurant really is more a Hollywood characterization of itself, and some menu items are utterly horrible. But then there's that homemade buckwheat soba and passable sushi. But it, too, raises questions:

Why go here when you can go to any number of smaller, more convivial places? The answer, Global Dining would argue, is that you’re getting an over-the-top showcase of Japanese culture. But is that its conviction or its business plan? Today you can hear stately drumming on the sound system. But all it would take, one suspects, is some slow months, and the drumming would be replaced with house music, and the American tradition of happy hour would exert itself. The vast halls of Restaurant Row must be filled.
Kuh, as we all know, doesn't star his reviews. You immediately gauge his like or dislike of a restaurant just through his words. Here he fairly criticizes the hiccups and highlights the positive, leaving us with the impression that if Gonpachi is your kind of thing, just go. But don't say he didn't warn you. [LA Magazine]

ELSEWHERE: LA.com finds Murano perfectly suited to the nabe; there's vegetarian Filipino food at Papillon; Penelope Cruz sighting, complaints about the high prices, strong drinks at the Chateau Marmont; a Cajun study in three parts, starting with Ragin Cajun; sating the sweet tooth at Simon LA; and the Teenage Glutster's graduation dinner at Ciudad is a metaphor for the real world he's about to step into: Hype often disappoints, and sometimes it's best to leave the family at home.

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