At long last, Jonathan Gold has finally dropped his take on Verlaine, the modern Mexican restaurant that by most accounts had a very rocky start. The exceptionally short review of the first LA restaurant by celebrated Mexican chef Diego Hernández recognizes that the chef’s “minimalist cooking and bar snacks was not universally adored in the restaurant’s first months.”
However, the “Baja Med” cuisine, which is described as refracting “the chiles and smoke, sweet and salt, seafood and fresh vegetables of the pre-Colombian kitchen through the lens of European and occasionally Asian technique” seems to have drastically improved, with J. Gold having only positive words for most of the dishes:
The results are often pretty subtle — Hernández’s scallop aguachile, spicy green ceviche, depends as much on the deep, marine funkiness of recently plucked raw scallops as it does on the sharp, fresh bite of puréed Serrano chiles, and his lovely cactus salad is given surprising life by the tiny bits of jellied pigskin slipped into it with the crumbles of fresh cheese. The crunchy dried tortillas served with the octopus ceviche are given a quick pass over a wood fire before they are served — the hint of smokiness in the tostada you assemble with the cubed avocado and soft slices of tentacle is elusive, and it may take you a few bites before you discover its source. [LAT]
The real star of the show though is an $11 bowl of beans that the critic describes as the best bargain in terms of “pennies per unit of pleasure:”
Many things can be said about the soft-fried black beans at the West Hollywood restaurant Verlaine. They are creamy. They sing with herbs. The slightly high fragrance but not the presence of dried beef lies just underneath. The tiny, white cubes of fresh cheese may tilt the beans slightly toward Bengali dal paneer, although the finely minced aromatics push it back to northern Mexico. They are likely to be among the best beans you have ever tasted in California. [LAT]
Ultimately, it’s much needed validation for the restaurant that seems to have finally gotten its footing in West Hollywood.