Erven's cooking tends toward playfulness, and you often don't know what is in front of you until you are halfway through a dish. A cube of lightly cured salmon may lean into a schmear of smoked goat cheese one night, on a plate with tart cucumber pickles and a couple of what the menu describes as "everything churros" flecked with seeds and bits of burnt onion. The plate reads as a deconstructed bagel with cream cheese, and it is delicious, especially the hot, liquid-center churros. The next night, you may encounter the same salmon with a dab of horseradish cream, a scattering of poppy seeds and a scoop of beet sorbet - the salmon becomes suddenly Russian. [LAT]
Besha Rodell gives two stars to Brilliantshine, the new cocktail-focused restaurant from Julian Cox, Josh Goldman, and Richie Lopez in Santa Monica. She has some reserved criticism for some of Lopez' food, but loves the drink program:
For instance, there's a tagliatelle with Korean pickled spinach, veal liver, and ocopa, a traditional Peruvian sauce. It's not quite as confusing as it sounds, but it still suffers from one big "why??": the veal liver. Sitting in leaden hunks on the pasta, it's just as metallic and livery as cow's liver can be.
That's one of several instances where it seems as though the kitchen is throwing ingredients around more because they're odd than because they're a good idea. Sweetbreads on toast is an intriguing concept, I suppose, but these particular sweetbreads aren't cooked especially well (the bounce factor is disconcerting, especially atop brioche toast), and the combination of the offal with heavily sweet tomato jam and the salty snarl of olive tapenade makes for a dish that's just plain strange, and not pleasantly so. [LAW]