The Other Critics

Virbila Munches at Mezze; Gold Chews on Chimu

Micah Wexler's brasied tripe with falafel at Mezze
Micah Wexler’s brasied tripe with falafel at Mezze Photo: Mezze

S. Irene Virbila is charmed by the relaxed pace of Micah Wexler’s Mezze, where she embraces the beauty and power of the chef’s fresh, widespread ingredients and deft orchestration. She loves the flatbreads and declares that the chicken liver may be the best “ever.” She’s feeling the openness of the former Sona space, and nails it that some of the chairs feel rather clunky. Wexler, she offers, “looks at Middle Eastern cuisine with a fresh eye, bringing in dishes not only from Lebanon but also Syria, Morocco and Turkey. The result is pretty interesting.” Um, “interesting?” “His food isn’t highly manipulated,” she writes, “but it’s alive with flavor.” Unfortunately, the online review lacks stars as of this writing and we’re dying to know if Mezze makes her renounce Cleo or at the least, if it will rightfully get more stars that what she handed to the SBE restaurant. (Update: It got a mere half star more, again showing the critic’s star system to be a bunch of hooey). [LAT]

“Fried chicken is the new black,” writes Mr. Gold, who suddenly sounds a little bummed on Kyochon’s exhausting wait-times these days. Since it’s the McDonald’s of Korean fried chicken and Bonchon is the Burger King, he says, you may find the scribe more often at Dwit Gol Mok, OB Bear, or Dan Sung Sa, though these days, you can find Korean fried chicken just about anywhere, he relents. [LAW]

Like a modern day John Fante, Jonathan Gold lays out the strange and varied surfaces of Hill St., including California Plaza where he notes, “you can find a free salsa concert or something,” clearly not on to the fact that you can see talents like Toto La Momposina perform there if you time it right. But he’s more concentrated on Peru today and visiting new “neo-Peruvian” Chimu in Grand Central Market. By now, we’ve read all the encouragements that the place is awesome and Gold seems on the same page. The stand “is basically a happy marriage of [Joseph] Centeno’s imaginative cuisine and [Ricardo] Zarate’s aesthetic of elevating Peruvian recipes with modern techniques and fine ingredients.” It works in a pollo a la brasa, beef heart salad, and shima aji, and vaults the pork belly chanco to be named as the restaurant’s best dish. Suddenly, the despicable service we had at Aburiya Toranoko on Saturday night makes us even sadder we didn’t choose to sup at Chimu during the free-roaming days of Carmageddon. [LAW]

Il Fico “may be L.A.’s first center of Pugliese cooking,” writes J. Gold, “a sleek, Euro-style parlor of housemade spicy salame, grilled favas with pecorino, roasted octopus, salads prepared with housemade mozzarella, and probably the town’s definitive plate of orecchiette with rapini.” And that’s just in the early days before they’ve really got the wood-burning oven working overtime. About chef Nicola Mastronardi, who is running Il Fico in between stints at Vincenti, Gold offers, “Thirty years ago, a well-known chef moonlighting from his famous restaurant at a pizzeria created Spago. Il Fico is nowhere as ambitious, but you never know.” [LAW]

Virbila Munches at Mezze; Gold Chews on Chimu