The Los Angeles Times co-critics are on a fierce pace in early 2020, and clocked in six restaurants this month. Today’s Week In Reviews showcases Bill Addison at East Hollywood’s Found Oyster. And over in Little Tokyo, Patricia Escárcega sampled chef Richie Lopez’ Peruvian-Japanese spot Yapa. Let’s dive in.
Found Oyster chef and co-owner Ari Kolender put together a restaurant that “feels at once like a refuge and a party,” according to Addison. The reviewer finds Found Oyster’s room “facilitates quieter, head-to-head conversations,” as a disco ball hangs from the ceiling.
Kolender’s minimal menu packs plenty with fresh oysters, shucked clams, chowder, fried oysters, and steamers. But there’s also the former Hayden chef’s take on the lobster roll:
“This kitchen smartly reverse-engineers it as a lobster roll. He boils down a stock made from lobster shells, fortifies it with cream and folds in cayenne for heat, carrot juice reduction for color and lobster coral for harmonics. Hunks of tail meat are packed into a just-toasted bun; the condensed bisque sauce perfumes but doesn’t overwhelm the lobster — the balance of ingredients succeeding at last. (If you want actual soup, the clam chowder is smoky and chunky with seafood.)”
According to Addison, Kolender’s skill shows up in “reconceptualized” lobster bisque. But Addison’s has a history of trying Kolender’s dishes over the years:
“I remember his cooking at Leon’s in Charleston: It was irresistible, big-personality food for the masses. Found Oyster has an innate, intimate sense of occasion; partly it’s the quality of the seafood, and also the dishes show more individualism, more restraint. That strikes me not as simply adapting to the size of the space but as growth in Kolender’s talents. Now he’s fashioning his own nautical geography, pulling from whatever traditions and seasonal finds most resonate with him. The approach serves the neighborhood and the city well.”
Partners Josh Goldman and chef Richie Lopez opened Yapa in the former Seoul Sausage space. It’s a feel good review and story, where Peruvian-born Lopez began his LA career as a dishwasher, and launched his own Japanese-Peruvian restaurant in Little Tokyo last July.
Yapa’s menu takes its cues from the “hybrid style of Nikkei cuisine,” with traditional Peruvian dishes like tiradito, “sashimi-like raw fish preparations that are typically quick-marinated in chile-blasted sauces.” But Escárcega’s first sampled Lopez’ “unorthodox churros:”
“The pastries are pudgy as cigars and glittery with sugar, with a bright purple stripe of huckleberry jam down their crisp spines. They’re filled with a slightly fishy and extremely rich monkfish liver pâté whipped to the consistency of cream. The dish is bewilderingly good, a happy union of savory and sweet that summons memories of peanut butter with tart summer preserves.”
Lopez “fancied-up” Peru’s lomo saltado with a dry-aged rib-eye, and “served with a tumbler bouquet of the crispiest French fries I’ve ever eaten,” according to Escárcega. The kitchen produces a $72 dry-aged steak, but the LATimes reviewer favors the smaller plates:
“Skewered beef hearts are wonderful with garlicky rocoto salsa. Korokke, nori-wrapped Japanese croquettes, are filled with a creamy corn pureé that makes you dream of summer. Panko-dusted grilled oysters are submerged in a breathless amount of nori-infused butter. A corvina ceviche is served in a tangle of slivered red onions and kernels of toasted Andean corn, everything drowned in a broodingly tangy leche de tigre sauce good enough to drink on its own.”