This week, Jonathan Gold reviews Manuela, the Arts District stunner that’s a part of the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel art gallery by Texas native Wes Whitsell. Far from the overly conceptual art gallery restaurant, Manuela’s “defined homeyness [...] may be avant-garde in its own way, Whitsell’s rural sensibilities settling into one of the most urban spaces on the West Coast.”
That sensibility translates to the cuisine, as is exemplified by the “Redneck” platter, full of “genteel staples more associated with church suppers than with ambitious restaurants,” including Benton’s country ham, pimento cheese, pickled vegetables, and deviled eggs “that would not be out of place at a proper Georgia funeral.”
Overall, the Times critic seems to enjoy the fare at Manuela far more than LA Weekly’s Besha Rodell, who took issue with the pricey starters and mediocre entrees. The critic even ends by recommending the elk loin that B. Rod called “very rare and almost disconcertingly tender” and the hush puppies she “filed[...] away for joke fodder” due to their hefty price tag.
Ultimately its a redeeming review for the restaurant, especially for its exceptional dessert:
But I’m not sure I’ve had a better dessert this year than what turned out to be a plate of chilled, peeled Kishu mandarins, smaller than golf balls yet fragrant and sweet, with a distinct, almost savory acidity that lingered on the tongue like the honeyed essence of a really good Sauternes. It was a distillation of late California winter. And it may take a particular kind of genius in the kitchen to know when to let perfection speak for itself. [LAT]