1) Mid-City: At Playa, chef and owner "John Sedlar is pushing the envelope again," writes SIV. He "seems to effortlessly turn out dramatic, eye-catching compositions that taste as exciting as they look. This is a place where the dishes have such a visual snap-crackle that I want to take out crayons and draw them...At Playa, the menu focuses more on inventive bites centered on freshly made tortillas or masa dough. The vibe is more casual and relaxed, the pace a bit faster than at Rivera, where the range of more complex dishes is broader. The food at Playa is just as beguiling, taking you on a trip through Sedlar's taste memory of the urban Latin landscape...As you've probably guessed by now, Playa isn't your typical Mexican or even Latin restaurant. Trained as a French chef, Sedlar takes different strands from cuisines and weaves them together in his own inestimable way to create something new."
While SIV appreciates Sedlar's creativity, "occasionally a dish disappoints such as the overly rich piquillos rellenos, peppers stuffed with Gruyère and chorizo and punctuated with raisins." Inexpensive sides are a good way to go, but "desserts stand in the wings waiting to get onstage...[they] can't really compete with the stellar lineup of savory dishes." Also, SIV loves mixologist Julian Cox's bespoke cocktails to the point where she suggests only ordering wine by the glass. In the end, Playa puts forth a strong performance: "Sedlar's dishes may sound intellectual when described, but on the plate, their flavors are gutsy and compelling. No doubt about it, he's out there on the far fringes of experimentation...And yet none of that seems to get in the way of his cooking. When he's on — and these days he's very on — dishes just ring loud and true as a gong." Two and a half stars all around. [LAT]
2) West LA: On to Steingarten, a new beer bar on Pico which The Goldster describes as "the kind of neighborhood bar that every neighborhood needs." The venue "has a strong specialty in grilled sausages, the bratwurst and bockwurst and spicy Polish that ease down a strong, hoppy brew. Some of the odd sausages work — the duck and bacon is nice, and so is the wild boar — and others, like the mushy salmon sausage, do not...You can get three sausages to a platter if you want to share them with the table, or one in a bun if that's the way you roll. There are sauteed peppers with onions, a rather tart sauerkraut or sweet caramelized onions; sweet-potato fries or fries dusted with parmesan cheese; German potato salad or red cabbage slaw. As is standard at L.A. gastropubs, there is a maximalist burger, a half-pound of grass-fed beef on a big, soft bun, sluiced with things like charred tomatoes, caramelized onion and Brie." Of course Steingarten offers all avenues of arcane beers, the bar "exists mostly as a conduit between humanity and beer, at least to that slice of humanity for whom Pint Night exists as more than a concept, the people who become excited rather than terrified when they see the words Experimental Raspberry on a beer list." [LAW]
The Elsewhere: The Find chooses Namastey India, Dig Lounge samples a Manzke burger at Le Saint Amour, Food GPS dines at Mini Kabob, Food Je T'aime hits LQ@SK, gastronomy tries Old Sasoon Bakery, kevinEats also samples LQ@SK, Midtown Lunch picks Flavors of Belize, and Refined Palate visits Bar Pintxo.