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LA Times Critic Jonathan Gold Steps Into Hearth & Hound’s Moral Quandary

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The LA Times critic is hesitant to silence the voice of chef April Bloomfield

An evening shot of customers inside a busy restaurant, flanked by fire and glowing lights.
The Hearth & Hound
Wonho Frank Lee

Although largely devoid of press since co-owner Ken Friedman’s horrific sexual misconduct allegations made headlines not even a week after opening, The Hearth & Hound is finally in the spotlight again with its first critical review. Jonathan Gold weighs in on what it means to dine at the restaurant, that could “in some way [...] endorse the supposed reprehensible acts of Friedman.”

At the same time, the Times critic asks:

So, if you boycott the Hearth & the Hound to express your distaste for Friedman’s alleged acts, are you silencing an important woman’s voice? Does the ineffectiveness of Bloomfield’s responses to Friedman make her complicit in his alleged misconduct? (“I know that it wasn’t enough,’’ she posted on Twitter.) [...] If you had built an empire through your imagination and sweat, would a partner’s alleged misbehavior cause you to dissolve it? [LAT]

There is no perfect answer to the questions, and the Goldster errs on the side of giving credit where it is due. And there seems to be a lot of it, what with Bloomfield’s “aesthetic of powerful small-plates cooking, simple yet so full-flavored that it often borders on the transgressive.”

While the unctuous burgers and other gastropub hits that made her famous don’t make the menu here, The Hearth & Hound seems to take a nod from the Middle Eastern craze taking place in Los Angeles:

Bloomfield had originally planned to open a Middle Eastern-ish restaurant in Los Angeles, and a lot of the plates lean that way: a coarse steak tartare with soaked kamut and harissa presented as a riff on Syriankibbeh nayeh; sauteed spinach with house-made tahini sauce and a handful of smoked chickpeas; and a lovely plate of soft, sweet roasted squash buried under a pile of bitter greens cooked down with a dash of the North African spice mixture baharat. [LAT]

J. Gold ends his review by also endorsing the whipped cod roe on toast and cabbage with oyster puree that “tastes like a marvelous sea creature you have never before encountered but can’t wait to taste again.”