This week, Besha Rodell revisits Girasol and Union, "restaurants that had huge potential in their early days but, at the time of my review, still hadn't quite grown into what they ultimately would become." First up, C.J. Jacobson's Studio City restaurant Girasol, a restaurant rife with "modernist, naturalist influence" that reflects Jacobsen's time at Noma.
In the original, two-star review, the Weekly critic found that "the cooking itself was lacking. I sensed that Jacobson might be having trouble finding kitchen staff to match his aspirations. The ideas were all there, but the execution of those ideas was often clumsy."
In her recent visits, the food is no longer clumsy, with meticulously prepared, innovative dishes:
Jacobson has an affection for interesting ingredients manipulated in interesting ways, such as toasted lovage, which he uses to flavor the butter that comes with the hearty, springy, house-baked bread and also on a beautiful octopus salad with roasted eggplant and rosemary-ash oil. The lovage reminded me immediately of a bloody Mary, its subtle whisper of celery hitting on a specific sense memory. That ability to conjure nature and transport you, to make you really think about what's on the plate, is rare. [LAW]
In its second review, Girasol scores three stars.
In her first Union review, B.Rod had an exceptionally poor meal on Mother's Day, and didn't award Bruce Kalman's Pasadena restaurant any stars. This time, the critic's experience has vastly improved, both in terms of service and food:
After revisiting Union a few times in the past few months, I finally get it. The service has improved significantly, and there's always an affable manager type circling the small, bustling room keeping an eye on things. [...] The handmade pastas are the star of the show, however, from the simplest tomato sauce-dressed spaghetti alla chittara to heavier ragus. A dish labeled lasagnette — basically strips of the ruffly edges of lasagna noodles, served as a jumble with golden chanterelles and porcini — is about as warming and rich and deeply musky as anything you might hope for from your friendly neighborhood gem. [LAW]
Union jumps to three stars.