1) Studio City: Unfortunately, SIV finds more disappointments than successes at Firefly in Studio City. The bar and lounge has been around for some time, and most recently proprietor Jeffrey Best brought in chef Jason Travi (Fraiche) to act as corporate executive chef for Best's restaurant group. "What has changed, but not as much as I'd have imagined, is the food. Though most of the dishes are new, they're all in the same rustic Mediterranean mode established by former chef Gary Menes. If anything, they're more generic than Menes' graceful originals were." Sadly, Sher does not discover the polished cooking Travi is known for, "we're beginning to see dishes that are better...Not many, but a few. Mussels are a terrific appetizer to share, the best dish here. Seared in a cast-iron skillet, they're plump and served plain, without juices, with all their sweetness intact." But overall, many appetizers don't work, main courses "don't make much of an impression," and dessert is disappointing. SIV hands out one lone star for Firefly and its "revamped...menu [that] doesn't offer as much excitement or reliability as you'd expect from a seasoned chef like Travi." [LAT]
2) SGV: Back to SGV for The Goldster as he tackles Beijing Duck House. Not surprisingly, "everybody in the restaurant is confronting a duck, which you should reserve a half-hour or so in advance, but which you probably can get anyway...The bulk of the menu seems to be devoted to dishes from coastal Shandong, an area that serves as Beijing's outlet to the sea, which is to say you are never far from an exotic invertebrate preparation...But you're here for the Beijing duck, which you remember at the moment a chef charges out of the kitchen bearing a roasted bird and a cleaver, slicing the breast into crescents of meat and crisp skin, sliding his sharp blade beneath the crisp skin of the rest of the bird and lifting it off in jagged, fatless, meatless shards. The skin is crisp, the sauce sweet, the pancakes never quite gauzy-thin enough. The sharpness of the scallion is the key, cutting through the richness, bringing the whole dish into balance. You could eat a million of these pancakes, but they give you just 10." [LAW]
The Elsewhere: LAmag discovers Mariscos el Jato, Refined Palate hits Bouchon, kevinEats at Vu, Eating LA tries Ray's and Stark Bar, Potatomato samples KTCHN 105, and Gastronomy treks to Full of Life Flatbread.