Ms. Rodell casts her critical eye on Alma, that former pop-up, in this week's review for the LA Weekly. She is mostly in love with the place, insomuch that it exemplifies what so many chefs say they want in having their own restaurant: "Small room. Just one or two other cooks. The brilliant food they've always wanted to serve without being thwarted by ignorant owners..." Still, Rodell doesn't buy the notion floating around town that Chef Ari Taymor (Bar Tartine, Flour + Water), 27, is at the level of Rene Redzepi. Taymor's cooking still has some growing up to do so that dishes don't "channel the arrogance of youth, the fallacy of ego over generosity." Still, with three stars, it's mostly delightful:
...the flavors both unexpected and somehow predestined. He makes beignets with seaweed and tofu, a totally next-generation donut that is as fun to eat in its fried umami glory as it is tasty. Sablefish, lightly smoked and slick, comes on a plate with a tangle of apple and celery, sweet and vegetal and snappy and crunchy. A sunchoke soup ... is poured over an egg yolk and a paste of smoked dates. The result is a silky, generous, surprising dish that seems like a musing on the earthy aspects of the color yellow. [LAW]
Gold goes back to his everlasting appreciation of the San Gabriel Valley in this week's LA Times review of Hunan Mao. Fish head is prominent in Hunan cuisine, so you will either love the review or gloss over it, in search of writing about a more refined restaurant. But you'd be missing more than just fish head:
If you were a fan of the luscious cucumber stir-fried with shiso, the toss-fried mutton and the chewy, spicy lamb ribs fried with garlic and lots of Sichuan peppercorn, you will find them at Hunan Mao in their original fashion. If your tastes extend more toward gooey strips of pigskin tossed with chopped chiles, magma-thick Hunan hot pots or the fearsome dish called Hot Over Spicy, basically a stir-fry of chiles flavored with chiles, seasoned with yet other chiles and dosed with a bit of ground pork, you will find them here too. [LAT]
The Elsewhere: Food GPS tastes The Shop in Santa Barbara; Caroline on Crack takes a cocktail class at SSAM; GourmetPigs gets dinner at Gus's BBQ in Pasadena; kevinEats goes to Bar Amá downtown; and LA Magazine gets off on beef tendon at Lukshon.