This week, Jonathan Gold visits AR Cucina, Akasha Richmond’s re-conception of her former restaurant, Sambar. The Times critic notes that the food is not otherworldly, but it is more appealing to a greater audience than that at Sambar. As the Goldster wisely mentions, “your quenelles might be the best in the world, but if the numbers don’t add up, your restaurant won’t last long.”
Gold generally finds the food agreeable, but notes that some missteps cause a few dishes to fall just short:
She is not a stranger to grilled octopus with puréed chickpeas. She knows as well as any seasoned chef that burrata tastes good with almond pesto and cherry tomatoes or that great broccolini becomes even better when you wilt it in a hot pan with chile flakes and a pinch of lemon zest. And you will forgive her the occasional over-fried Roman artichoke or hazelnut-slugged kale salad — it’s coming from the right place. [LAT]
Gold also comments that while some of the pastas miss the mark, the cacio e pepe is worth ordering:
Is the sauce for her bucatini all’Amatriciana too close to a standard issue, over-reduced tomato purée? (Perhaps it is — the unique pig-cheek funk of well-cured guanciale was scarcely detectable.) Is the texture of the chunky strozzapreti pasta with mushrooms a bit stodgy? Do the tortelli lack the suppleness of the stuffed pasta at places like Alimento and Angelini Osteria? They do. But the thin, wiry spaghetti cacio e pepe is lovely, a smidge overbuttered but tossed with a properly stinging, fragrant shot of pepper and pungent cheese...[LAT]
More importantly, J. Gold notes that LA continues to devalue Indian restaurants, but one has to do what they must, in order to pay the rent:
It’s not fair that the perceived value of a rack of lamb drops when that lamb is rubbed with spices and cooked in a tandoor. There is no reason why celebrity-farmer spinach should be worth more when it is sautéed with pine nuts and raisins than when it was cooked with homemade paneer. But it can be hard to argue about issues of intersectionality when the rent comes due. [LAT]
Ultimately, the review sums up the restaurant as a fine place to dine. Some dishes like the “porchetta here, zapped with fennel pollen and sluiced with a too-sweet, underseasoned apple mostarda, may well make you a bit nostalgic for Sambar’s porchetta vindaloo,” but as of now, this part of LA is not ready for such a place.