Just a few short days after Jonathan Gold penned a rather tepid review of Maestro, the new modern Mexican restaurant in Old Pasadena, Besha Rodell dropped her review of the same spot. In fact, you very well could have spotted her in the slideshow for the Goldster’s review, as, on the day it was published, the LA Weekly critic tweeted:
What's funny is when you show up in a dining room shot in the slideshow that accompanies another critic's review.— Besha Rodell (@BeshaRodell) March 10, 2017
LA’s two restaurant critics had very similar things to say about Danny Godinez’s newest outpost. If you’re not familiar with Godinez, it may be because the chef has built his restaurant empire in Orange County, with restaurants that focus on French/Mexican fusion, molecular techniques, and Mexican state-inspired dishes.
Maestro is the chef’s first LA County restaurant, with “a focus on presentation that's more whimsical than artful — octopus with chorizo salsa and avocado puree is plated on the side of an empty mezcal bottle, and chicken with mole comes in a blobby swirl on the plate that we're told is ‘the shape of Mexico.’”
The Goldster concluded his review wishing the cooking at Maestro was a little more soulful, and B. Rod backs up his remark:
If anything, I wish Godinez would get bolder with his flavors — there are dishes at Maestro that lack depth and impact, that taste too one-note. The L.A. snob in me immediately wonders if the chef has had to tone down his cooking in the past to please a less adventurous suburban customer base, and that maybe he assumes Pasadena residents also will be conservative in their tastes. But that assumption is more about my own shameful anti-suburbia bias, and you don't go serving huitlacoche ice cream to folks whose palates you underestimate. [LAW]
The critic also takes issue with the sourcing:
About that huitlacoche ice cream — it was served atop a puddinglike corn cake that's the only dessert option, and while the musky flavor was intriguing, the ice cream itself had an icy consistency and tasted a little of freezer. It wasn't the only problem that spoke to basic flaws in sourcing or technique. The heirloom cherry tomatoes mixed in with the ceviche were stiff and unripe, and the huge tortilla crisp that came atop it had the unyielding stiffness and dull flavor of extreme staleness. [LAW]
Besha ends by explaining that Godinez is still a “thoughtful, talented chef,” and that she perhaps asks “for too much when I'm truly excited about a revolution like the one Maestro represents.” Maestro earns two stars.