Jonathan Gold finally files a full review of Szechuan Impression after posting a quick first look shortly after his first meal there. For the most part, he's impressed, offering up a quick mini-history of the Sichuanese food scene in SGV:
If anything, the flavors tend to come from the less-spicy end of the spectrum, including fresh bamboo shoots very lightly dressed with chile, chewy sliced pig's ears smoked like Sichuan bacon, mustard greens flash-fried in a smoking-hot wok and something called Cinderella's Pumpkin Rides: sweet, chewy dumplings of pounded pumpkin deep-fried to a delicate crispness, a perfect dish for the aftermath of Halloween...
The version at Szechuan Impression, labeled Boiled Fish With Rattan Pepper, is subtler, the fillets more delicate, the broth almost mild enough to sip (although you will not be provided with a spoon). For nuanced yet mind-blowing heat, you probably have to move on to the gingery sautéed dry pots of diced rabbit or frog.
You may as well stick around for dessert: There are fried lozenges of rice cake sprinkled with soy powder and served on a puddle of liquefied black sugar; a cold, sweet, barely gelled soup made with "ice powder" brought in from Chengdu
Offering a sublter contrast to Chengdu Taste, Szechuan Impression seems to be a more well-rounded, perhaps more complex experience than the Sichuan front-runner in SGV. [LAT]
Meanwhile, Besha Rodell goes back to Tar & Roses, doling out three stars for Andrew Kirschner's uber-popular farm-to-table restaurant in Santa Monica:
Two years later, a meal at Tar & Roses is anything but forgettable. Flavors have been distilled, and nothing I ate had that pleasant but unremarkable quality that marked so much of what was presented in the months right after the restaurant opened.
More risks are taken. Kirschner used to do a kabob made of chicken oysters - cute but hardly life changing. Now there's one made with tender hunks of lamb heart, singed at the edges and deeply flavored, served with banana raita and harissa.
Kirschner has a way with contrasts, on the vegetable portion of his menu and beyond. A serving of Jerusalem artichokes seems almost ludicrously generous in nature, dotted with goat cheese and showered with hazelnuts. It's stunningly delicious. [LAW]
Patrick Kuh hits Roy Choi's Commissary for his monthly review, with a lengthy take on all the elements that make for the popular chef's latest and greatest:
Inevitably, with Choi the cooking comes back to richness; it's as much a key part of his style as the multiclause sentence was for Henry James. Does the bowl of clams in a thick-as-chowder broth that's been packed with garlic and crisp bacon need a barge of buttery herb-crusted garlic bread riding alongside?
Perhaps not, but with effect building on effect, I won't question the wisdom of this luxuriant rendition of Manilas. Ironically, when the taste for lushness is applied to simpler dishes, they can lose their vitality and become, well, kinda greasy. [LAMag]
In the end, Kuh gives just one star to Roy Choi's Commissary.
The Elsewhere: FoodGPS heads to Claremont and finds a slew of good places to eat and drink, Estar LA checks out Union in Pasadena, Gastronomy swoons over the rich grilled cheese at The Hat, MyLastBite tries Mac-O-Licious for the LA Times, Unemployed Eater digs the croissants at L'amande, and The Offalo hits the Fork in the Road in Santa Monica.