This week’s batch of reviews from the LA Times once again pulls the paper in two very different directions, starting with a slam of a piece for a popular restaurant down in Orange County.
Co-critic Patricia Escárcega found a lot to dislike at the spendy Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens in Corona Del Mar, the tony coastal neighborhood along the Newport Beach coast. The restaurant offers loads of al fresco seating and is situated inside a “seven-acre luxury nursery,” but even the closeness to nature can’t help to elevate chef Rich Mead’s takes on “field-to-fork” cooking. Here’s the main problem:
What happens when prized ingredients are matched with poor design and execution? Too many dishes falter in similar ways — indifferently cooked, bluntly flavored or overpowered by too many ingredients.
Escárcega can’t get past a “convoluted” bowl of rye berries with Chinese sausage, shrimp, kimchi, and caramelized onions, noting unhappily that it has been “crowned with a rubbery fried egg,” and that it all just “quickly slips into a brown, salty torpor.” Another signature vegetable bowl doesn’t fare much better: “The bowl — a dense, sluggish welter of fibrous things — is a slog.”
Other dishes like a pork tenderloin come off as “unappealingly tangy” thanks to a port-dried cherry sauce, and the Icelandic cod is “conspicuously underseasoned.” In all, there’s not much to recommend beyond the helpful service and gorgeous setting.
Back up in greater Los Angeles, co-critic Bill Addison takes to Tarzana in search of Sri Lankan food at Apey Kade. The restaurant is not entirely unknown, as it’s earned some shine in other publications over the years, but Addison comes to the place by way of a local’s recommendation for quality Sri Lankan fare. Once inside, he agrees whole-heartedly that the place is delicious.
For those on the go, there’s an “ever-changing” lunch buffet, though Addison prefers the specials list of menu items, even if some need to be ordered an hour or two in advance. The lamprais is a “feast wrapped in a banana leaf,” consisting of chicken or beef curry, eggplant, coconut-bathed fried bananas, rice, and more.
And on a more personal note:
Sri Lanka shares some culinary traits with South India. The flavors in the beef lampraisremind me of my dear friend Asha, an incredible cook in Atlanta who’s originally from India’s southwestern state of Kerala, which sits across the Laccadive Sea from Sri Lanka. I know from her to eat this spread with my right hand, waiting for the food to slightly cool before I form bits of this and that, held together by rice, into a loose ball in my palm. Rodrigo looks at me, nodding and laughing. He tilts his head to the back of the restaurant. “The restroom is that way to wash your hands when you finish.”
In all, Addison loves the “fiery, coconut-rich cooking” of Apey Kade, especially when it offers him a bit of emotional nostalgia as well.
Meanwhile, TimeOut reviewer Simon Majumdar gives three stars to the Ricardo Zarate project Pikoh, saying the place is getting some well-deserved “winning nods of approval” from diners.
The Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens. 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona del Mar, CA.
Apey Kade. 19662 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, CA.