The Other Critics

Gaon Flavor-Bombs Gold’s Suburbs; Virbila Checks Out Chaya’s New Chef

Beaucoup Banchan
Beaucoup Banchan Photo: flowerguy via Flickr

Seeking “an aggravated soybean assault?” Jonathan Gold sends you to Olympic Cheonggukjang, which “specializes, reasonably enough, in cheonggukjang, a thick soup made with the fermented Korean bean paste also called cheonggukjang, whose aroma has been compared to ripe French cheeses, unwashed jockstraps and the city of Vernon, Calif., but has a special eye-watering tang of its own.” Their seaweed could be the best version you’ve ever tasted and the pork bulgogi is the bomb, he offers, but “you may be thinking more about survival than you are about lunch” and need to call the exorcist once you eat that soup “as quickly as you may have your first shot of whiskey.” [L.A. Weekly]

Chaya’s new chef, Harutaka Kishi, has made big changes and probably has a skill set even further beyond what he’s doing here, S. Irene Vibrila offers, but he’s “cooking a smart menu that’s a subtle update of one of L.A.’s iconic Franco-Japanese restaurants.” She recommends a “knockout” salmon mi-cuit, a “textbook” au poive, and whets our curiosity with green-tea pasta. Chaya endures after 25 years, she thinks, for its “good cooking and good service in a chic setting with a distinctly urban personality.” Two stars. [LAT]

What will it finally look like when Korean cooking inevitably reaches the realms of the mainstream? Jonathan Gold predicts it could look like Pasadena’s Gaon, where light jazz plays and there’s “not a tabletop grill in sight.” From a former chef at Woo Lae Oak and sharing the name of a more famous, more original Seoul restaurant, Gaon might dumb down flavors in banchan for the Yanks, but the chef is “actually spry, subtle and fairly traditional” and makes both authentic and adventurous dishes from monkfish soup to a “deeply flavored” jjigae. [L.A. Weekly]

Want to eat out with friend and be heard? Diners are so demanding these days! Anyway, Mr. Gold suggests you take your crew to Vertical Wine Bar for Laurent Quenioux’s toned-down, but still just as luscious concepts, that is after early suggesting to go to Smitty’s or Noir, and giving a shout-out to Antonin Carême. [L.A. Weekly]

Los Angeles casts its eye on Night Market, “a festive late-night departure from the fine-dining experience next door at Yenbamroong’s Talesai” where “a mix of clubbers and families nosh on Thai street foods like spicy grilled hog collar with chili dip and skirt steak laced with lime and red onions.” [Los Angeles]

Merrill Shindler makes it Rain on you hoes with a trip to the restaurant of the same name in Torrance’s Marriott. He wades through the menu’s “psychobabble,” which seems to just result in stuff like burgers, chicken wings, flatbread, and hummus dip. [Daily Breeze]

Gaon Flavor-Bombs Gold’s Suburbs; Virbila Checks Out Chaya’s New Chef