The Other Critics

Virbila Appraises Playa; Jonathan Gold Hoists A Glass at Steingarten

Sedlar's settings at Playa
Sedlar’s settings at Playa Photo: Hadley Tomicki

With day boat scallops and a young Malcolm McDowell staring her in the face at Playa, S. Irene Virbila writes, “[John Rivera] Sedlar has never been able to do just food. He has the impulses of a conceptual artist, except his medium is food.” She gets swept up in the scene, even finding that “the dishes have such a visual snap-crackle that I want to take out crayons and draw them.” Wow, we like this new, primal Virbila, who goes nuts for the selection of inventive maize cakes and loves Julian Cox’s mezcal cocktail, if not the forceful Bloody Mary we featured last week. The sides are recommended and she doesn’t want you to be afraid of huitlacoche, but the desserts have some catching up to do. Of Sedlar, she concludes, “He’s someone who looks at food through a very particular lens, trying to put it in context with the rest of the world…And yet none of that seems to get in the way of his cooking. When he’s on — and these days he’s very on — dishes just ring loud and true as a gong.” Two and half stars go out to Playa (and one and a half stars go to her weak rhyme). [LAT]

Mr. Gold gives us one of those eternal truths: That New York pizza, save for a few of the best spots, is just as guilty of mediocrity, and worse, as some of our taco makers in L.A. He loves Casa Bianca (well, he loves Mozza first, but you knew that), but that only pisses Gothamites off. You might want to try Vito’s or Giovanni’s, or for the most New York slice, hit Joe’s…which isn’t all that great, but maybe that’s the point. We’ll throw in a nod for The Coop, which causes flashbacks of many a casual slice on a soused New York night. [LAW]

We’re in the height of our “Middle Eastern moment” and J. Gold finds that Mezze is “probably the swankest of the new upscale meze parlors.” He throws out that the restaurant is owned by the same people as Voyeur before waxing poetic on the braised tripe with falafel, merguez sausage topped flatbreads, and a foie gras terrine with toast points. Save room for Manti “drizzled in almond milk.” [LAW]

“Hopheads, and they are legion, lurk among us, unseen and unnoticed, save for the faint whiff of malted barley that they wear like a favorite scarf.” In other words, Jonathan Gold sees the town awash in suds and heads to Steingarten, “the kind of neighborhood bar that every neighborhood needs.” He sounds very happy here chilling on the patio and talking up the neighbors, and even finds “Some of the odd sausages work — the duck and bacon is nice, and so is the wild boar — and others, like the mushy salmon sausage, do not.” Still, it’s not necessarily the food that’s so crucial here, but “Steingarten exists mostly as a conduit between humanity and beer.” [LAW]

Virbila Appraises Playa; Jonathan Gold Hoists A Glass at Steingarten