The dual Los Angeles Times critics have fully found their footing this week, starting with Bill Addison’s first foray into writing about a place that downright disappointed him. This week he takes readers off to the Arts District with Jessica Largey’s new restaurant Simone.
The restaurant, backed by big Hollywood money and some three years in the making, came with plenty of larger-than-life expectations for chef/owner Largey to live up to. And while Addison does find things to like about the place, saying the cocktails at front bar Duello “show genuine savvy” while also enjoying some pork meatballs and “a lovely collage of scallops with winter squashes sharpened with passion fruit and rounded with orange browned butter,” his meals there end up being somewhere between blasé and outright bad. He even notes a 45-minute wait even with a reservation and some clumsy waitstaff, saying he would have left outright “if I hadn’t been on the job.”
Moreover, Addison seems really rather unimpressed with the direction of the place so far, saying:
Dining at Simone feels strangely shapeless. It opened in September. At its five-month mark, its approach to hospitality lacks a reliable sense of cohesion. The menu reads like a spec sheet of trending ingredients, though too few dishes yield out-and-out pleasure or personality, and too many falter in execution.
Given Largey’s accomplishments, this is baffling.
In the end, Addison has hopes for the upcoming $185 tasting menu at the chef’s counter, and is rooting for Largey overall, but right now Simone is just filled with too many “disjointed parts” to succeed.
Meanwhile, co-critic Patricia Escárcega takes to the wilds of Riverside County to explore a Lao-style barbecue spot that looks pretty surprising. The place is called Kra Z Kai’s out in Corona, and it works a meaty menu that winds from ribs to larb to thick sausages and beef dip.
Grilled meats are a common feature of Lao cooking, especially the street food you’ll find at bustling night markets of cities like Vientiane and Luang Prabang, where extravagant piles of chicken and pork line the grills.
This place, however, is rather unique for Southern California, if not the whole country. “Lao cooking,” Escárcega writes, “is still hard to find outside the family kitchen.” Thankfully, Kra Zy (“Crazy) Kai’s exists, “tucked next to a barber shop at the edge of a strip mall.”
What you’re smelling is the Lao-style beef short ribs, thin-sliced flaps steeped for 48 hours in a garlic-infused oyster sauce marinade that are grilled to the perfect and precise point of caramelization. There is beef dip, quintessential Lao party food, boneless slips of grilled meat served with an intensely herbal chili-cilantro lime sauce. A gentle swish in the sauce sets off a flavor catalyst: a whomp of garlic, a high-note jolt of citrus and the tender, smoky char of well-done beef.
And, finally, TimeOut’s critic is back with his own take on Simone, saying of the three-star endeavor: “despite the inconsistencies, there is much to like about Simone, and it’s the sort of thoughtful restaurant that this city needs more of as its dining scene matures.”