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New LA Times Critic Calls Ma’am Sir’s Filipino Food “Brilliant” and “Glorious”

While LA Times critic Patricia Escárcega digs into the details behind Downtown’s NoMad

A lush and leafy bar with metal stools.
The bar at Ma’am Sir
Wonho Frank Lee
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

The LA Times is back for its second new wave of weekly restaurant criticism, with both Bill Addison and Patricia Escárcega filing on a couple of newer places in the city.

First up is Addison’s ode to Ma’am Sir and chef/owner Charles Olalia. As the story goes, Olalia spent part of his formative years learning to cook pork from his grandmother (naturally) in the Philippines, and he’s still using some of the basics from her lessons to inform the sisig and adobo and lechon he now cooks in Silver Lake. Addison says of a particular platter of varied, layered pork parts and other flavors:

In its blitz of richness and acidity, they can only send up one constant signal: more, more, more.

Addison sure is struck by the cooking and the place itself, with its buzzing clientele and just-hip-enough location. There is, however, one trouble spot:

When [Olalia] isn’t in the restaurant, stationed at the kitchen window guiding his staff, meals have been noticeably more erratic in execution or delivery

Other than that, the “masterful” cooking is considered different shades of “brilliant” or “glorious,” and the restaurant in total carries an “ebullient spirit.” Sounds like a winner.

The NoMad in Downtown
Wonho Frank Lee

Meanwhile, Escárcega dropped in for a few meals at Downtown stunner NoMad, which transitioned from an even more upscale second-floor dining experience to an all-day destination in the lobby of the hotel. Escárcega can’t seem to get over the glory of the space itself, a redone former bank building with some of the best mood lighting and highest ceilings in town.

And what of the food? Escárcega is taken with chef Chris Flint’s rotating menus and attention to detail, saying:

I don’t think I saw the same menu twice over the course of two weeks.

There is an ode to the “mega-popular Kanpachi ceviche” and “terrific fava bean hummus,” and then there is this:

The menu is not without potholes: A winter salad of chicories, apple, hazelnuts and Parmesan is a heavy, chewy slog. Nothing, not even slivers of fresh citrus and marinated radishes, can redeem a gooey, sullen clump of burrata. And a much-touted plate of grilled calamari, spackled thickly with fennel-heavy aioli, is dangerously reminiscent of a tartar sauce-deluged filet-o-fish sandwich.

Escárcega touches on the California foie gras ban and wonders aloud about what it means for the famous NoMad roasted chicken, before ultimately deciding that:

The cooking will be accomplished; the service will be peerless; the dishes will indeed be pricey... The experience, on the whole, will be pleasant, if unexciting.

Elsewhere around the Southland: TimeOut gives three stars to the busy Night + Market Sahm in Venice; The Hollywood Reporter says Alta chef Keith Corbin is “a talent;” and Brad A. Johnson of the Orange County Register spends a final foie gras meal fawning over Hana Re in Costa Mesa.