The Other Critics

Gold Picks Picca, But Casts Out the Causa; Burum Finds Afghan Express

Picca aka
Picca aka “Captain Beefheart” Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

Though he let The Wall Street Journal beat him to the punch, J. Gold declares that we’re “nearing the Peruvian moment in cooking.” But L.A.’s champ assures us, “we’ve been eating Peruvian dishes for years” in L.A. at Nobu. At Picca, Gold spots Zarate doing the opposite of Nobu: “Instead of inflecting Japanese small-plates cuisine with Andean flavors, he’s filtering Peruvian cooking through the aesthetics of the izakaya.” Though we know the critic to be enamored of Zarate and Mo-Chica, and no less of the dishes at Picca, he still feels, “a lot of the menu feels clunky in ways that he should be able to control ” and echoes what diners keep saying, that the room-temperature causa just isn’t something they want in their mouths. But in terms of Peruvian dishes, Picca is still pumping out some of the best versions Mr. Gold has ever had. And remember, this is a dude who was mock-executed in Lima while just trying to get some ceviche! [LAW]

Linda Burum explores the recipes of an Afghan mother at Afghan Express, a restaurant trying to compete for co-ed quick service dollars in Gardena. Burum recommends the pilaf kabuli palau, “A whole lamb shank braised to butter-tender submission” over nut-and-fruit-strewn rice that “is a creation long ago devised for a caliph’s pleasure.” While the kebab and fresh veggies are solid, we’re also told “No one in L.A. makes these chubby meat-filled dumplings [called mantu] like Mrs. Shinwari,” while all of the home-cooking at this small Crenshaw restaurant is heartily recommended. [LAT]

Jonathan Gold grabs a bite at Ramen Yamadaya and finds that “it takes porkiness to a new extreme, a tongue-coating, brain-penetrating pig plasma that comes at you as if shot from an umami gun set to stun. You don’t just eat Yamadaya ramen, you wear it like a straitjacket.” It’s definitely a great broth with superior noodles, though we’d like to slip Santouka’s slippery chasu into the bowl instead of the slightly drier pork we got. [LAW]

Need a recommendation for excellent cemitas? There’s really no one better to ask than Mr. Gold. After giving his umpteenth gushing plug to the Guelaguetza clan, Gold almost as faithfully picks the straight-forward example at his favorite, Elvirtia’s in Boyle Heights. Now we want to eat cemitas at 9:30 A.M. in the morning. [LAW]

Gold Picks Picca, But Casts Out the Causa; Burum Finds Afghan Express