The Other Critics

Kuh Hoped For More From Rick Bayless; J. Gold Sniffs Pork Vapors at Baek Hwa

Photo: Rick Bayless

Red O “is the kind of slightly overheated venue that routinely pops up in L.A.,” thinks Patrick Kuh, comparing it to the glossy embraces of Bouchon, Katsuya, and Craft in their time. “Despite the expense of the design and the abundant staff, it’s easy to feel as if you’re being processed amid the clamor of the joint,” he writes, before tallying up the various missteps that dull the vitality of the cuisine and fall short of the colorful examination found at Rivera. He frets over the sidelining of titular ajo in a shrimp dish and naturally dismisses some limp taquitos. Like many before him, he loves the pork belly sopes, then goes nuts for the smart use of chilis and the distinct character in the tinga poblana and queso fundido. In the end, Kuh worries that Bayless “has one foot planted in clubland while the other tries desperately to keep a toehold on the deck of a departing Veracruz steamer.” [Los Angeles]

Angeleno’s Brad A. Johnson falls for Wolfgang Puck’s luxurious Chinese restaurant, WP24. He finds “not a single appetizer on the menu that isn’t fantastic” and “can almost say the same thing about the mains.” Even if “the service falls apart” and “the kitchen still can’t get its timing right,” the restaurant “comes closer than any other to fulfilling” his dream of L.A. having “a truly luxurious Chinese restaurant…on par with Jade in Singapore or Lung King Heen in Hong Kong.” [Angeleno/Modern Luxury]

S. Irene Virbila visits Saddle Peak Ranch as a bi-annual ritual, noting that “during the last decade or so, the kitchen has seen a parade of chefs coming through.” She often found that the reliance on game dishes felt gimmicky and recent efforts to reduce their emphasis has resulted in a more affordable, invigorated restaurant under former Melisse chef Adam Horton that underlines the magical canyon ambiance. [Los Angeles]

Merrill Shindler tries his best not to go crazy with all the dishes coming at once to the table at Korean restaurants but has an easier time managing the swelling crowds at two Gardena restaurants “facing off like a pair of prizefighters: Imperial Korean BBQ and Mapo Korean BBQ.” He also stumbles upon a sketchy room he wasn’t supposed to see. [Daily Breeze]

Dip’s Grill might resemble “a prototypical fusion joint,” but Jonathan Gold finds the standard Central Vietnamese dishes “surprisingly…good enough that you can eat an entire meal here without even thinking about the proximity of the beef rolls at Noodle 101 Express next door” and loves the pork belly buns. [L.A. Weekly]

“You may have driven past Baek Hwa Jung 200 times, and unless you happened to sniff the air, chances are pretty good that you never considered slowing down,” writes Jonathan Gold about Roy Choi’s favorite KTown haunt while hooked on the gool bossam and barbecued pork ribs. If you do sniff said air, “the sweet, burnt-pork vapors…are enough to make you weep.” [L.A. Weekly]

Don’t go looking for great food, no less great northern Chinese, in Chinatown, Mr. Gold warns, even if “Mandarin Chateau serves acceptable Shanghainese cooking.” He suggests making the short drive to Giang Nan in Monterey Park, Wok n’ Noodle in Alhambra ,or Mei Long Village in San Gabriel instead. [L.A. Weekly]

Kuh Hoped For More From Rick Bayless; J. Gold Sniffs Pork Vapors at Baek Hwa