Gold Tells Us Why We Must Eat Popcorn; Virbila Mourns Mauro at A1

Bacon popcorn at Tar & Roses
Bacon popcorn at Tar & Roses Photo: Darin Dines

Why is everyone serving you popcorn these days? Jonathan Gold offers multiple reasons, primarily revealing that popcorn, “announces the seriousness of the cooking in a playful way…while acting as a cheerful entry point for customers who may be a little skeptical of the bone marrow and octopus that are sure to follow.” The critic is eating at Andrew Kirschner’s Tar & Roses, a Santa Monica restaurant that “specifies the wood that the chef happens to be burning that day” and underplays its focus on wine. The small plates surprise Gold, who gets wrapped up in the lamb belly and hit unexpectedly by plates like grilled fish with Meyer lemon risotto, the Thai shellfish pot, and bone marrow, then wonders when “in our nation’s history cauliflower became more delicious than prime steak,” while enjoying his second plate of the stuff. Besieged by gastropubs on all sides, the critic sounds satisfied with more of a good thing at Tar & Roses, pinpointing the English peas with sea salt as “the single most delicious thing in the restaurant.” [LAT]

S. Irene Virbila “can’t drive down La Cienega past STK steakhouse without remembering the late Mauro Vincenti’s last restaurant,” Alto Palato. But she seems content with A1 Cucina, the new project from some of the restaurateur’s old crew, including chef Freddy Escobar. With a revamped menu from the time when this space was Il Buco, Virbila insists “the change is for the better,” including lower prices. She swoons for sauteed squid, oxtails, and raw artichoke, pizzas cooked on a hot stone, and stands by pastas “all cooked very much al dente.” Don’t miss the rabbit ragu if offered, the critic pleads, calling A1 “the standard high for solid, truly Italian cooking.” [LAT]