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Pretty Much Every Critic Loves Kali on Melrose

Is it the LA dining scene's new critical darling?

Wonho Frank Lee

Welcome to Good News/Bad News on Kali, the sleek new restaurant by chef Kevin Meehan and wine director Drew Langley on Melrose. Overall both critics and bloggers alike have mainly positive things to say about the restaurant, with both LA Weekly and LA Mag dropping three stars on what Garrett Snyder sums up as a "well-polished restaurant." So what's the overall word?

That wheatberry risotto is a brilliant albeit ugly dish:

"The wheat berry 'risotto' is interesting too: grain cooked with an umami-rich fermented-garlic broth instead of meat stock, topped with a thin, crisp, black garlic-infused disk of toasted cheese from Fiscalini in the Central Valley (you may know its cloth-bound cheddar), masquerading as a Northern Italian frico." [LAT]

"It might come as a surprise, then, that the most brilliant dish at Kali is also the downright ugliest. Meehan cooks down dark brown wheat berries — fat kernels that vaguely resemble Sugar Smacks — until they reach the toothsome texture of Italian carnaroli rice. [...] Although the gnarly black-on-brown heap looks like something fed to a submarine crew, the combination of rich, savory and salty is immediately familiar. This is risotto — a fantastic one at that — in a beggar's disguise. To roll out another cliché: Looks aren't everything." [LAW]

The wine program (and the service that comes with it) is as incredible as you'd hope:

"The wine list is good — I've been enjoying the Summer of Riesling pop-up list — and Langley is apt to come over with a suggestion for a glass of Syrah if he thinks it might go better with the lamb." [LAT]

"And although Langley keeps a larger collection of bottles in a rear wine room — you get the feeling that if you wanted to blow out your wallet on Grand Cru, Kali could accommodate you — the list of wines by the glass is surprisingly accessible, with a handful of affordable French wines among a few indie-cool California producers." [LAW]

"Before getting into the food, it's important to note a major plus here: personal service. Having Drew Langley on the floor, interacting with the guests is a tour de force of customer service. His subject knowledge is obvious, but he delivers it in an effortless comfortable way." [Food Talk Central/lilmikey]

Kali Defines Upscale Casual Dining in Larchmont Next Week

Wonho Frank Lee

There's an ultra rich avocado salad:

"The avocado salad is novel: halved avocados from the grower J&J Farm, brushed with honey, briefly seared on their cut sides without cooking them through. They are sprinkled with that ash, buried under greens, scattered with transparent slices of radish and carrot, and crowned with those oily pistachios — a rich, nourishing dish that can be enjoyed even by people whose diets prohibit almost everything." [LAT]

"Take a half avocado charred on the grill and served with a raw salad of shaved vegetables. Rather than offset the avocado's natural creaminess with hits of acid, Meehan doubles down on unsaturated fats, topping the lush green fruit with pistachios and a heavy drizzle of olive oil." [LAW]

"The same passion is at work in Kali's avocado salad. [...] Without being diced or slivered, the avocado seems made anew—full and sumptuous and a dish unto itself." [LAM]

The cod isn't received as well:

"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." [LAT]

T"here are rare occasions in which mellowness becomes blandness — a filet of cod with a soft crust of almond flour was perfectly cooked but tasted mostly like white-on-white." [LAW]

But the meal ends on a good note with that signature meringue gelato:

"The improbable masterpiece of a dessert -€” meringue-enriched gelato with salted yolk grated over it at table -€” is something you have to try at least once." [LAT]

"For dessert, there are a few scoops of toasted meringue ice cream (imagine a far superior version of Cold Stone's sweet cream flavor) topped with shaved candied egg yolk. For each order, Meehan comes to the table and explains that he cured the yolks in salt and sugar until they resembled firm yellow orbs. The brightly yellow shavings aren't quite sweet and aren't quite savory, and the dish would be far less memorable without their subtle injection of umami." [LAW]

"The waiter places it before you, a snowy oblong in a white bowl, and quickly reappears holding a long grater and salted, candied yolks cushioned on a folded napkin. In moments they're transformed into yellow flakes that rain down onto the gelato. It's salty and sweet, the umami of the dried yolk riding on each bite." [LAM]

"So, when the server came over to microplane cured egg yolk over the meringue gelato put before me, I was a little apprehensive. My fears were allayed as this was one of the single best scoops of ice cream that I have had in recent or distant memory." [Food Talk Central/djquinnc]

Kali Dining

, Los Angeles, CA 90013