This week, Jonathan Gold shares his thoughts on Bavel, not even two months after Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis’ blockbuster opening. Throughout the entireity of the review, Gold hardly utters a negative comment about the Bestia founders’ sophomore effort, but he does say that the restaurant can get pretty loud, as one might expect at an Arts District warehouse space.
Instead, the Times critic waxes poetic about a few standout dishes, but begins with the hummus:
Menashe’s hummus is magnificent, a ring of silky, airy purée surrounding a big spoonful of chunkier, denser stuff; a green rivulet of olive oil; smears of spicy, smoky harissa and green puréed herbs. The pita has inflated into a sphere on the hot fire, but its interior has the lovely, evolved gluten network of a slow-risen country loaf. And as you scrape the bread between one density and the other, through the oil or not, the dish becomes an essay in the nuances of texture and fragrance, a nifty, chefly trick. [LAT]
And he declares the oyster mushrooms as the best dish:
The best dish at Bavel could well be the grilled oyster mushrooms, chewy as flank steak, with a bitter wild nettle purée and an electric sprinkle of tart sumac. Almost everything seems touched with fire and cumin; coarse salt and fresh mint. [LAT]
The pièce de résistance may well be the lamb neck shawarma:
The best big meat dish at Bavel is the lamb neck “shawarma,” slow-roasted until it almost collapses in on itself, charred and smoking, laminated with a spice-shopful of herbs, with fermented cabbage, pungent tahini, and crunchy turnip pickles. [...] You carve off a bit of the dripping meat, tear off a scrap of hot laffa bread, tuck in the vegetables — you have constructed the ultimate taco al pastor of the Middle East, and the rich meat seems to transform from solid to ethereal liquid in an instant. [LAT]
Of course, pastry maven Gergis gets her due with a nod to her outstanding ode to licorice:
And her best dessert — a puck of chocolate-enrobed licorice ice cream with Maldon salt, a dead ringer for the chocolate-covered Lakrids licorice candy from Denmark — may be Middle Eastern only in that the licorice root comes from the region. I take home pounds and pounds of that salty licorice every time I go to Copenhagen. I couldn’t have been happier to taste its essence in a formal dessert. [LAT]
Ultimately, the Goldster seems to confirm all the hype. Bavel is certainly one of the hottest restaurants in Los Angeles, but now those reservations will likely be even more difficult to secure.