This week, Jonathan Gold heads east to dive into warm bowls of "Mexican ramen" at Whittier's Colonia Publica. The restaurant that comes by way of Ricardo Diaz (Tacoteca, Cook's Tortas) specializes in fideo, a Mexican dish of vermicelli noodles cooked in broth. As opposed to the Spanish version, where the solid noodles are topped with seafood, the Mexican take is more like a soup that can be customized with plenty of toppings:
You are handed a checklist, like the kind you see at some ramen shops, asking exactly what you would like to put into your soup, which you can get vegetarian is that's your jam. The basic bowl is $6. For a few bits more, you can get smoked sausage, which is something from the frankfurter family; bits of chicken; or a small handful of garlicky shrimp. When you order chorizo, it comes as a spoonful of crumbled sausage on the bottom of the bowl, which makes the broth spicier and glazes its surface with thick red oil. If you check off the chicharrones box, you get a fistful of crunchy fried pork rinds scattered across the bowl. If you're up for cheese, there is queso fresco, which forms into a kind of fluffy quenelle in the hot broth, indistinguishable from tofu. Jack cheese becomes a denser blob; sprinkles of queso añejo have more or less the tangy effect of Parmesan cheese.
And then your bowl comes, unlike any bowl in the world, and you tear into it as if it were a bowl of steaming tomato soup on a cold, rainy day. [LAT]
On the other side of town, Besha Rodell writes a review on Wally's Beverly Hills, the vinoteca follow-up to the largest independent wine retailer on the West Coast, Wally's Westwood. The kitchen, now helmed by David Féau, offers dishes "on both a casual and a very high-end level," like a $26 burger that can be topped with shaved white truffles. While the burger is good, although not quite enough to merit the hefty price tag, other dishes falter:
But I have questions about this food, questions most patrons will never get to because they're too busy eating the (perfectly decent) personal pizzas. I was thrilled to see venison on the menu, a meat that had a bit of a heyday about 10 years ago and then fell out of favor again. But the two tiny pieces of lovingly cooked meat came surrounded by a mess of Brussels sprouts and chestnuts that were blackened and tasted downright acrid. Why were they black? Were they supposed to be? Were they burnt? [LAW]
The LA Weekly critic also has her doubts about the wine list, describing it as "a protracted list for people looking to impress and looking to spend money" that comes with service that channels "French attitude."
Still, the wine bar walks away with two stars.
The Elsewhere: Darin Dines gives his take on the tacos at Petty Cash Taqueria Arts District, Hillary Eaton talks Blue Star's Los Angeles-flavored doughnuts, and kevinEats thinks Seoul Sausage Downtown delivers booze-friendly comfort food fare.