The Other Critics

Gold Goes Nostalgic Over Saint Estephe; Virbila Drinks in Ombra

Sedlar's huevos rancheros #1 au chevre
Sedlar’s huevos rancheros #1 au chevre Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

Despite all the Spago fervor, Fernando-Mania, Pac-Man Fever, and Where’s the Beef-iness of the eighties, Jonathan Gold says you could still tell St. Estephe “was something else entirely.” The critic is exploring John Sedlar’s Saint Estephe throwback menu we showed you last week from Rivera. Recounting his chile relleno with Laura Chenel’s goat cheese (“which in the mid-1980s was as ubiquitous in a certain kind of restaurant as bacon is now”), Gold remembers that “this was not smoky, crisp, herbacious California cuisine; this was classic French cooking with New World ingredients.” Calling Sedlar “one of the most innovative chefs ever to wield a whisk in Los Angeles,” Gold says the whole meal makes him want to listen to “Wham records again.” We hope he’s kidding about the Wham, but know he’s right on when he recommends scoring a reservation. [LAW]

S. Irene Virbila makes a little ‘Find” of her own, venturing to Studio City’s Ombra. Opened by Drago, Domenico, and Valentino vet Michael J. Young, she finds the chef “reveling in his newfound freedom,” and “coming into his own, cooking with confidence and attention to detail.” She adores his pasta-making skills and is relieved to find more than “just the same old L.A. Italian dishes.” While the boar chops fall flat, she feels the braised brisket to be “one of the best around.” Virbila concludes, “Opening your own place in this economy is always a bold move, but I think this is one restaurant that will make it.” She starts Ombra out with two stars. [LAT]

J. Gold calls out Japanese curry at home and obrad, telling us straight-up that a lot of cooks are using a pre-made mix. Not at The Fat Spoon, where Hiro Fujita has a “dark, dense, complex Japanese curry, distinctly not from a packet…made with Jidori chicken, simmered short ribs or crunchy Kurobuta pork tonkatsu.” [LAW]

What condiments does Mr. Gold value? Naturally, he’s stealing as much garlic paste from Zankou as he can get away with. He also recommends investing in good pepper and salt, and admits a weakness for yuzu kosho and Huy Fong’s sambal oelek. [LAW]

Gold Goes Nostalgic Over Saint Estephe; Virbila Drinks in Ombra