More Notes from L.A.

March 2, 2014

Eating fast and furiously as I prepare to leave Lotus land. The food here is just so good now!

A few high spots. 

Shanghai #1 Seafood

Pig candy

Old Alley Pork: Chunks of deeply burnished pork. Sweet and rich, this amazing confection barely seems like meat; it's been transformed into something that seems to have been created by a baker. 

  Cousin Itt

Braised Three Strings: Shredded chicken, ham and squid, that looks so innocent in its little puddle of broth. But this subtle dish is sneakily addictive: my chopsticks kept reaching out for one more bite.

  

Jar

My go-to restaurant and one of the most comfortable places in town: a seat at the bar is always waiting and the food is reliably wonderful.  With its dark lighting and deep seats, Jar has the feel of a glamorous thirties restaurant.  And should you actually want to talk to your companions – this is the place.  

A few weeks ago there was a green garlic soup so subtle and delicious I had to have a second bowl. The potato chips are famous. But what I find myself ordering, again and again, is the lemongrass chicken.  It’s the juiciest most delicious chicken I’ve ever eaten, and sometimes, when I’m not in LA,  I find myself dreaming about it. 

 

Bestia 

The sheer exuberant roar of this extremely hip restaurant in the downtown Arts District makes it difficult to concentrate on the food. If there’s a louder restaurant, I have yet to find it. Lots of offal on the menu, although some of it is underwhelming. (I found myself comparing the heart tartare to the one Chris Cosentino makes – and it’s no contest.) But I loved the tender beef meatballs with their well-braised beet greens.  My favorite dish however, was this:

Uni
Spaghetti with sea urchin,  squid ink “bottarga," chiles and breadcrumbs

 

Republique

One of the most talked-about restaurants in town, and no wonder.  The old Campanile has been lovingly refurbished, keeping the bones of the place but making it somehow even lovelier.  The entire front dining room feels like one huge communal table, open to the kitchen, and extremely lively.  In the morning it's a perfect place for excellent croissants and coffee.  

The rear dining room has the same menu as the one in front,  but it’s more grown up back there, a place to talk and sit quietly enjoying Walter Manzke’s beautifully crafted food. The menu is quirky – the chef refuses to recognize boundaries – which is rather brave.  It’s as if he’s saying, “These are dishes I like.”  I liked them too, from the wonderful risotto, the uni on toast with softly scrambled egg, and the beautifully cooked filets of branzino in an elegant Thai sauce.  

But the must-have dish is the tarte flambee, Manzke’s version of the Alsatian classic bacon tart. This one is so rich with caramelized onions and smoky bacon the tart itself seems to have vanished until all that's left  is pure unadulterated flavor. 

 

 

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