Michael Bauer, the San Francisco Chronicle food critic, found his way down south to test the LA restaurant scene recently, and today we have his thoughts. If there's one thing Bauer likes, it's hitting all the top contenders. Hell, as long as the paper's paying right? With Los Angeles magazine critic Patric Kuh in tow for at least a few, Bauer hit 10 restaurants in five days: BLD, Cut, Spago, Jar, Lucques, Pizzeria Mozza, Hatfield's, Patina, Providence, and La Terza. While these are indeed some of the best we have, it's obviously an expense-account list, which is limiting. He said the recommendations came "from friends in the business and guides." Allow us to highlight some of what he preaches to his NoCal readers---and what they should've been told:
(1) The best way to determine the success of a LA restaurant is the number of valet attendants outside. A tip from Kuh, and now that we think about it, yeah, that's pretty much true.
(2) Valet is cheap. Bauer says it's rarely more than $5, which is not true. He went to Cut, it's like $15. We don't like it, but we regularly pay $7-$10. How much do they charge for valet in SF, $20?
(3) Desserts and drinks are expensive. Again, maybe at the 10 restaurants he chose. Aqua and Gary Danko serve $2 slices of pie and Charles Shaw?
(4) The symbiotic relationship between Very Important People and maitre d's makes the world go 'round. While it's true VIPs have the deeper pockets, the real test of a top restaurant is if the maitre d' can make even the little people feel like a VIP.
(5) Seeing Jake Gyllenhaal is more important than what's on the plate. There's nothing that gets our goat more than the tired, tired, tired assumption that no one cares about food in this town. The seasonal produce showcased on menus, the creativity, the attention to detail are all hallmarks of what's going on today. Especially at a number of the restaurants he visited. More importantly, LA is full of multi-taskers: We can enjoy our meal and ogle Jake with equal aplomb.
(6) Tourists don't get to eat at the best restaurants. Yes, LA is spread out, and no, we don't have a great transit system. While it's true a taxi ride can get pricey, and figuring out the city streets and highways might scare visitors, we do have streets and highways. It's amazing how many people actually use them to go from hotel to restaurant and back.
(7) Los Angeles has become a magnet for celebrity chefs. True. Probably because a few of our own started the trend (Wolfgang, Nancy, Michael, Mark, Suzanne?)
(8) "Most restaurants are destinations, so there are fewer really good moderately priced places." What?? That is such a falsity we can't even think straight enough to respond. Every single neighborhood has a moderately priced restaurant worth driving to. Off the top of our head, Dominick's, Tasca, BLD, Bin 8945, Lou, Hiko Sushi, Fraiche, Rustic Canyon are all destinations in their own right. We won't even start with all the ethnic restaurants he said he didn't get to try. And we thought it was rude for fellow critics Max Jacobson and Alan Richman to call Bauer a hack. Maybe not so far off the mark after all.
· The dish on Los Angeles [SF Chron]
· The Critics Circle: Don't Listen to Bloggers, "Mariani's a Jerk," and More [~ELA~]