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LA Times Fails to Find ‘Creative, Exciting Cooking’ at Nic’s on Beverly

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Plus an homage to Orange County legend Brodard

The exterior of a restaurant, as seen from the street.
The Nic’s on Beverly space
Google Maps

The LA Times is out with its two reviews this week, and it seems the city’s paper of record is no fan of Nic’s on Beverly, the all-vegan restaurant opened by Nic Adler this summer. The project took over the former Ponte (and before that Terrine) space and kept its leafy, exquisite patio, but co-critic Bill Addison says what is now missing is “creative, exciting cooking.”

Here is but one take:

About the salads, for instance: One of them aims to riff on the flavors of Chinois on Main’s chicken salad. A beloved staple, certainly, if a regressive choice to venerate, but I’d hope the dressing would detonate with mustard and sesame and pickled ginger. This is instead a mound of chopped vegetables with little flavor or vitality or impetus to keep eating it.

A shot of the salad is shown below. And what of the larger mains? Gnochetti comes off “gummy,” potato pierogis “prompt none of the usual joy,” and a Moroccan chickpea tagine is “monotonous.”

Thankfully there are some highlights, like a tempura avocado taco situation, but mostly Addison finds himself wanting more.

In these handful of successful efforts, I glimpse what could be at Nic’s on Beverly. But as a city, as a collective culture, we’re past dubiously conceived and ambiguously seasoned vegetarian cooking. Give us a sense of place, give us moxie, comfort us with surprise and context and imagination. This is a golden age for myriad kinds of dining. Vegan restaurants aren’t exempt from reaching higher too.

Meanwhile, Patricia Escárcega makes her way to Orange County to bask in the glory that is Brodard, the Vietnamese staple in Fountain Valley. The restaurant has had massive success since the 1990s in Little Saigon, and now their larger location is turning out more pork spring rolls than ever before. That’s a very good thing.

At the new Brodard, nem nuong cuon is still the marquee dish. Thickly built with ruddy pork, fresh herbs and spears of green onions, the first bite is sharp with mint and animal salt. On the second bite you register a crisp mantle of fried wonton strips, shatteringly thin and extra-crunchy, tucked into the soft swirl of fillings.

Oh, and what else is good? Just about everything.

The deluxe broken rice plate is a gleeful jumble of shredded pork, shrimp cakes and a spongy egg meatloaf laced with fish sauce. Jackfruit salad is a necessary side dish, a pungent, chewy conflagration of chiles, lime and fish sauce.

Escárcega also loves the pastries, the rice cups, and “row upon colorful row of house-made macarons, miraculously light.” Brodard is just that kind of magical do-it-all sort of restaurant.

Nic’s. 8265 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles.

Brodard. 16105 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley.

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