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Critic vs. Critic: Citrus at Social

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Photo by Alen Lin, 2/08

Like a David vs. David American Idol smackdown, we're occasionally graced with back-to-back restaurant reviews from our city's magazine food critics, Angeleno's Brad Johnson and Los Angeles Magazine's Patric Kuh. Both took a look at Citrus at Social for their respective May issues with surprisingly similar results. The only real difference is if Michel Richard is more Santa Claus or Friar Tuck.

1) Johnson's Michel Richard-as-Santa Clause is inarguably one of the country's finest chefs who made his name right here in LA, but because the only real remnant Citrus has of the bearded and bespectacled chef is his name on some platesm does he really exist?

What we’ve really got here isn’t a Michel Richard restaurant, but rather another Jeffrey Chodorow venture. Not that there’s anything wrong with that...Asia de Cuba on the Sunset Strip has been hot for more than a decade, despite very average food. Ditto the Blue Door in Miami. At the end of the day, however, those Chodorow restaurants are little more than T.G.I. Friday’s for rich people. Applebee’s in a cocktail dress...I have fond memories of Michel Richard’s food at both the original Citrus and at Citronelle...But while this is a very good restaurant (and the lounge next door, a fun club), I felt that with each visit, Richard was farther and farther away.
After breaking it down (five for the mosaic of carpaccio, one for the rib-eye), Johnson gives Citrus three stars. [Angeleno (PDF)]

2) Coming clean that he worked in the Citrus kitchen with Richard for four years, Kuh thoroughly respects the round, bearded, jovial "Friar Tuck." There's also a great deal he admires on the Citrus at Social menu---the noted carpaccio mosaic, the chicken faux-gras, the clever "caviar" in the Beluga tin---but the wordplay becomes too much and the dishes don't always pan out. Will that be enough to succeed?

If we decide that this is a restaurant that adopted its name to evoke past glory, we will reject it. That’s not an L.A. restaurant; it’s a Vegas restaurant that happens to be in L.A. But if Richard manages to engage with diners as a creator rather than as a star, allowing honestly that his new circumstances?prevent him from overseeing daily operations, we will respond as we did the first time he stacked quadrants of crème brûlée between layers of sugar-lacquered crust. We were Richard’s earliest supporters, but we saw him too often in the flurry of creation to settle for his name on a plate.
Kuh, with LA Mag's new star system, gives Citrus at Social two stars. [LA Mag]