This week, Jonathan Gold finally reviews Felix Trattoria, Evan Funke’s Italian restaurant that recently received four stars from LA Weekly’s Besha Rodell and was included in Bill Addison’s list of the best new restaurants in America. The Goldster describes Funke as liking “butter and rowdy herbs, bitter greens and stinging quantities of black pepper. Meat is his friend.”
That translates into some terrific starters:
So you may start out with plates of fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella, a salad of sliced chicories sweetened with pine nuts and dates, or sautéed peppers tossed with toasted breadcrumbs and a hint of dried fish roe. [...] If they’re on the menu, the baby artichokes fried in the Roman Jewish style, crisp but meltingly tender, flavored with lemon and a bit of fresh mint, may be the best version of the dish I’ve ever had in Los Angeles. [LAT]
Still it’s all about the pastas, and while the Times critic loves the “impeccable” tortellini and papardelle that is “correctly thin and springy,” he admits the rather hard pasta may not be for everyone:
But Funke’s aesthetic, for all of its popularity, may not be your own, especially when he is using his own, freshly made pasta in place of extruded shapes like spaghetti, rigatoni and bigoli that in Italy as in the United States are usually sold dried. I admire his “alla gricia,” a simple Roman sauce of guanciale, pecorino and lots of black pepper, but the mezze maniche, “half-sleeves,” are more or less inflexible tubes, hard at the center, that become grainy when you chew them.
The ultrafirm texture is definitely his house style — you could interpret it as an extreme interpretation of what Italians call “al dente,” cooked to provide resistance to the tooth — and it is consistent, but it also distracts from what should be beautiful cooking. [LAT]
Ultimately, J. Gold concludes that “Felix is an easy place to be happy,” but it is interesting to hear a more tempered review of LA’s new critical darling.