This week, Jonathan Gold gives his take on Kali, the pop-up dinner series turned brick-and-mortar restaurant by fine dining vets Kevin Meehan and Drew Langley. The Times critic describes the restaurant "as part of a backlash against the willfully eclectic small plates restaurants that have dominated Los Angeles dining for the last decade," before diving into dish specifics. Mostly, that means some gorgeous, market-driven dishes served in a more traditional format:
Meehan's cooking tends to be detailed, focused around California produce, and arranged with the precision of a Zen garden. When there are ridgeback prawns, tiny, crisp creatures trapped in the Santa Barbara Channel, they may be lightly marinated, arranged with segments of citrus, nasturtium petals, dots of foam, those nasturtium leaves that look like tiny lily pads, and halved kumquats topped with domes of jelly. When you get uni toast, the sea urchin is ice cold and the bread piping hot. A certain percentage of dishes are likely to be garnished with duck eggs, burnt onion or garlic ash, shaved vegetables, chopped pistachio nuts and the mustard frill greens that look like the tribal barbed-wire thing your older brother may have gotten tattooed around his biceps in 1993, and sometimes all at once. [LAT]
But as good as those dishes may be, the Goldster argues that "Meehan's cooking [...] may be better suited for the rigors of a tasting (or modern tapas) menu than it is for what strives to be a more or less classic restaurant:"
A bit of black cod on a bed of fresh peas with almond, white chocolate and a blanket of uncooked pea tendrils is nice for about four bites; thick-cut duck breast with blackened carrots and honey is charming for maybe six. Either would be fine as a small plate, but sometimes even a great track may not work as an extended remix. [LAT]
Ultimately Kali certainly sounds worth visiting, with recommended dishes of the beet tartar, wheat berry "risotto'', duck breast with carrots and lavender, and meringue gelato.