Who makes LA’s best Texas-style smoked barbecue brisket? That’s the primary question behind LA Times co-critic Bill Addison’s review this week as he tackles the trio of meats (beef, pork, chicken) at Slab on West Third Street.
Slab, of course, is a collaboration restaurant between Burt Bakman of Trudy’s Underground Barbecue fame and the busy folks at H.Wood Group, the restaurant and nightlife impresarios known for owning some of the hottest spots on the greater Westside. Together, the pair has brought the small former Doughboys address a new level of fame, with celebs wearing the merch and long lines at first opening. So how is the place, now that a year has ticked by?
Coarse black pepper coats the smirched bark; a thin garnet ring loops just underneath the surface. There’s a trace of vinegar that comes from prepared yellow mustard slathered on before cooking. The textures, particularly on the fatty pieces, jump from creamy to nubbly, crunchy to melting.
This is very good smoked brisket.
Other hits include the “crackly, ruddy” pork spare ribs, and “hulking beef short ribs” found commonly across Texas. The latter is a “solid effort, certainly no mind scrambler” but is both fun and flavorful still. Meanwhile:
Smoked chicken emerges as the underdog of the pack, juicy and fragrant with the mix of California red and white oak that Bakman favors for smoking. It has its place on the pic-ready tray, as does the mac and cheese.
Still, it seems the cresting wave of wondering fans has died down in the days since first opening. Addison notes that “business has been generally steady, though sometimes quiet” at Slab during his multiple visits, but it’s not for lack of quality — especially when it comes to that fantastic brisket.
Elsewhere, Times co-critic Patricia Escárcega escaped to the holy land at La Diosa de los Moles in Paramount. The Oaxacan specialist Rocío Camacho opened her colorful restaurant back in 2017, and has been drawing in legions of fans for her intricate moles (often made with dozens of ingredients) ever since.
Fiesta mole samplers, and the wonderful mole Oaxaqueño in particular, are outright stars, but just about everything on the menu shines, says Escárcega.
Steeped in a mole-making legacy that reaches back generations, many of her recipes are family heirlooms passed down through her maternal line. Camacho is an astute interpreter of inherited classics like the manchamanteles, her version of the darkly ruddy, “tablecloth staining” mole. It’s sharp with chile heat, lightly smoky, with a brooding spice that can be washed away only by large amounts of agua fresca.
Other hits from the Mole Goddess, besides the samplers, picaditas, and enchiladas, include “crisp corn enchiladas” and the Maria Bonita plate with grilled filet mignon. There are vegan options too, for those in need, just know that here one never steps too far away from the joys of the mole itself.
And sometimes, amid the laughter and clink of stemware, you’ll catch a glimpse of the goddess herself emerging from the partially obscured kitchen, a cheerful blur in her chef’s coat. She has come out to mind the mole, stirring the clay pots on the buffet table before she disappears again into the kitchen.
Slab. 8136 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles.
La Diosa de los Moles. 8335 Rosecrans Ave., Paramount.