With so many brand new restaurants and out-of-town chefs colliding into LA’s dining scene right now, it can be tough to make room in the media for all those still-busy second restaurant efforts. But that’s exactly what LA Times co-critic Bill Addison has done this week, knocking off truncated talking points about both Jon & Vinny’s new location in Brentwood, and Petit Trois’ big Valley sophomore project.
Petit Trois in Sherman Oaks is now a year old, making it the big sister of sorts to the tiny original strip mall location next door to Trois Mec at the edge of Hollywood. Addison finds that he’s still drawn to the “cramped quirkiness” of the shoebox original, but has come to enjoy the larger footprint and expanded Parisian-by-way-of-California menu being put out by chef Ludo Lefebvre up in the Valley.
When I focused on the dishes offered only in the Valley, I warmed to the place. Chunky, chewy-crisp lardons lent charisma to a handsomely singed tarte flambée. A recent special of quickly fried sweetbreads in Calvados cream with apples was timeless and wonderful.
Addison also finds time to heap praise on “pastry chef Rachel De Jong, the breakout star of this sequel,” who “knows how to channel Lefebvre’s trademarks around form and feeling.”
As for Jon & Vinny’s in Brentwood, Addison admits to being targeted by the “heat-seeking missile” of a menu, where red sauce and carbs and meat combine to make just about everyone happy. There’s a particular affinity for the mozzarella sticks:
The crunch and ombre of the breading, with its forest-dark specks of dried herbs, brings a satisfaction that goes beyond words. The cheese is densely molten and stretchy but doesn’t ooze; it waits for you to make the first move.
But even more so for the business itself, which Addison notes is “born to be cloned.” That’s not to say the copy is as good as the original — “The Brentwood pies aren’t quite as consistent ... but they’re close enough” — but the model works and is endlessly repeatable, particularly if it means more outlets and an inevitable thinning of those endlessly long wait times.
Back up in the Valley, co-critic Patricia Escárcega reviews Sushi Bar, the offbeat, mostly hidden seafood spot in the center (quite literally) of Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee’s Encino restaurant empire.
The nearly two-year-old Sushi Bar has similarly spawned its own follow-up, this one in Montecito just south of Santa Barbara, but for Escárcega’s review purposes she’s focused on the one near the 405. There the critic finds the $125 omakase experience to be “fresh and uncomplicated,” even if it lacks some of the purity of other high-end sushi houses:
Japanese yellowtail is scored and slicked with a surprisingly delicious yellow-corn sweet pudding. One of the best bites on a recent visit was the shima aji, striped jack, splashed with a yuzu kosho infused with the smoky, savory notes of Anaheim chile peppers.
Escárcega does quibble at the occasional speed of service, and the overall theatricality of the place, saying simply:
It’s all as choreographed and schticky — or charming, depending on your point of view — as that uncle who insists on pulling a quarter out of your ear at every family reunion.
Still, the food is satisfying and intriguing and worthy of a visit, though the review is short on details about who is doing the actual cooking when Lee is out of town at one of his many other ventures. There’s no question about the simple dessert from Kallas-Lee, though (“a sweet frozen lozenge of lime ice cream and black sesame shortbread encased in a green tea chocolate shell”); it is simply marvelous.
Jon & Vinny’s Brentwood. 11938 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood.
Petit Trois Le Valley. 13705 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.
Sushi Bar. 16101 Ventura Blvd., Encino.