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This Vegas Food Blogger Really, Really Hates LA's Booming Dining Scene

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He's got a lot to say about Otium, Redbird, and more

Redbird, Downtown LA
Redbird, Downtown LA
Elizabeth Daniels
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

A chunk of the West Coast fooderati have started to collectively snicker at one John Curtas, a native Las Vegas food and hospitality blogger who recently spent some time in Los Angeles. The crux of the collective chuckling is a post entitled To Live and Dine in L.A. — a title seemingly lifted from the Josh Kun book of the same name, but more on that in a moment. In essence, Curtas says that L.A.’s dining scene ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and in fact most of Downtown is still in desperate need of help. Let’s take a look.

The opening salvo is an immediate shock to the system, as Curtas lays into Los Angeles’ "mediocre meals" and the "filth and rubble of downtown L.A." by sentence three. From there he decides to throw Downtown a bone by asserting that the Ace Hotel "did not disappoint," before moving on to note that he didn’t eat there and only tried a cappuccino from the coffee bar, which he liked. The tea selection, unfortunately, was a little "pretentious".

Curtas proceeds from there to lay into Otium, Timothy Hollingsworth’s beautiful Downtown restaurant. Hollingsworth, it should be noted, was formerly chef de cuisine at The French Laundry, but Curtas here says his food isn’t far from odious. There’s a dig at Hollingsworth's presumed culinary school skill level in there somewhere, too — it's right underneath the photo of Otium that Curtas managed to pilfer, without credit or payment, from Eater's own photo gallery of the restaurant.

Hungry you will be, but food you will not find

The writer and his crew eventually step into Redbird, emerging with similar results as at Otium. A dish he finds overcooked there is considered "circumstantial evidence indicting the kitchen for biting off more than it could chew."

There are a few positive words to be said in the diatribe, though they’re mostly reserved for the already very established Valentinos, CUTs, and Spagos of the world. Curtas even manages to call chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken the "Too Hot Tamales girls" at one point, which seems a bit demeaning for two very successful women who also happen to own restaurants in Las Vegas, before closing with this rosy bit of prose:

Am I being overly harsh? I don’t think so, especially when you consider this work-in-progress that is downtown Los Angeles has barely changed in half a decade, while other cities like Washington D.C., Chicago, and Portland have been in full bloom. After all this time (and by "all this time" we mean the last half century) it remains the red-headed step-child of urban America: an under-performing shell of its former self, driven to the brink of oblivion by 60 years of love for automobiles, freeways and cookie-cutter suburbia.

Thanks for the heads up on all the dish misses and "bombed out buildings and thrift shops" of Downtown Los Angeles, the city is sure you won’t need to come back any time soon, and that’s okay. As for that photo of Otium, Eater reached out to John Curtas about using the image without permission, but so far hasn't heard back.