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Time Out Critic Likes the Appetizers at Alta But Thinks the Main Courses Are Uneven

Plus, the LATimes jumps into Joy and Studio City’s Los Balcones

Oxtails and rice at Alta Adams
Oxtails and rice at Alta Adams
Wonho Frank Lee
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

Los Angeles is still adjusting to a steady stream of restaurant reviews these days. And while the bulk stem from the Los Angeles Times, Time Out’s Simon Majumdar dives headfirst into Alta’s soul food this week.

Keith Corbin and Daniel Patterson’s popular restaurant is approaching its five-month mark, and all in the extra hot West Adams neighborhood. Majumdar comes in hot with the positive verdict, “Alta’s soul food lights up West Adams—but could become a destination for people across the city.” Majumdar noted “people having a good time,” in this historic section of town. He found the appetizers are the highlights, especially the warm cornbread with honey butter — which he ordered twice — and requested a second bowl of herb dipping sauce paired with Corbin’s falafel fritters.

Majumdar’s enthusiasm dipped slightly with the main courses, which he described as a “mixed bag.”

“The skillet fried chicken ($22) was dry on both visits, and the grilled pork collar ($21) was overcooked to the point of unpalatable toughness—a shame, because the Southern chow-chow relish atop it was spot on. Much better was a smothered hanger steak ($31) that was not only cooked medium-rare as requested, but came covered with an earthy, savory sauce that made me clean the plate with my fingers after the meat was long gone. Best of all was a dish that should soon be appearing in every self-respecting “best dishes in the city” list: The oxtails and rice ($23) is as good a version of this classic as I’ve tried in many years.”

Desserts also left an inconsistent impression on Majumdar, who favored the cookie plate instead. He seems fond of the neighborhood joint, and ends with the following, “I am now going to sit in a quiet room and think about that oxtail.”

Alta restaurant in West Adams Wonho Frank Lee

Next up is Studio City’s Los Balcones by Los Angeles Times critic, Patricia Escárcega. Escárcega glowingly reviewed the modern Peruvian restaurant, which took over the Girasol space last October. Described as “the best party north of the Hollywood Hills,” Escárcega experienced “rhapsodizing” servers who unecessarily offer knives for the tender costilla short ribs, and fawned over the Andean charcuterie platter.

Chef de cuisine Polit Castillo stayed on after Girasol closed, who collaborated with famed chef Ricardo Zarate on the menu which blends Peruvian and Asian flavors. But there’s more than the food according to Escárcega, Los Balcones Studio City is a vibe:

“By the time the check rolls around, your auditory senses have synced nicely with the elegant thrum of Willie Colón, Celia Cruz and Buena Vista Social Club charging over the house speakers. If you’re lucky, you will have stumbled on a punch-red cocktail called Sangre de la Pacha, a smooth and earthy honey-bourbon concoction made with beets and habanero bitters. Or maybe you have discovered the majesty of a well-made pisco sour, which you’ll find at the bar. Drink or no drink, though, El Balcones is a party.”

Los Balcones
Los Balcones Studio City
Mona Holmes

Lastly, Los Angeles Times critic Bill Addison reviews the Taiwanese favorite, Joy. Addison finds the comfort food at this Highland Park Taiwanese spot “at once remarkable and unremarkable,” yet “very fresh and bright.”

Addison labels the place as successful for completely varying reasons. “With most dishes priced under $10 and a tirelessly cheerful staff, the place is a 2019 paradigm of a terrific neighborhood restaurant.” Addison believes locals will keep owner Vivian Ku’s place busy, and understands why:

“I’m meeting a friend here once a week, or I’m having dinner delivered from Joy as an antidote to handicapping California’s forthcoming Michelin guide.”