Besha Rodell would probably rather be in Koreatown than Culver City this week, where she’s eating at Lyfe Kitchen, the Palo Alto-born quick-service restaurant that plans to open 250 stores in the next five years with the guiding hand of chefs Art Smith and Tal Ronnen. This is only the second location and it doesn’t really impress the critic, who loves the intention of providing affordable healthy eats to the masses here more than she enjoys the actual food. Doling due propers to the atmosphere of “spilling live herbs and greens in the center of the room,” Rodell zeroes in on good dishes that succeed when “left to their own devices without a lot of manipulation.”
Then comes the bad, which involves “entrees reminiscent of Trader Joe’s frozen entrees, albeit of higher quality but slightly blander” and a kabocha squash farro risotto described as “two notches above Lean Cuisine, [and] three notches below a decent restaurant or homemade risotto.” The critic concludes, “It’s a daunting task, trying to bring freshness, quality and consistency to what the chain hopes will be a national audience.” Even as she’s looking at the lines out the door, Rodell ends, ” I wish it all the success in the world. I just don’t really want to eat there ever again.” One star!