The Other Critics

Virbila Inks Two and a Half Stars on Michael Voltaggio; Gold Bites Into Bäco Mercat

Don't look back: Michael Voltaggio at ink.
Don’t look back: Michael Voltaggio at ink.

After summing up the blogoriffic hype and calling Michael Voltaggio’s stint at The Langham “a mismatch,” S. Irene Virbila gets all worked up over ink. “This is stylized, cutting-edge cuisine more influenced by new techniques and experimental kitchens…Some of it works. Some of it doesn’t quite, but in the end, his food is exciting and very much his own,” she writes, noting his sponsorship deal with Samsung for some reason. She sounds inspired by this one and enchants with visions of lamb neck poutine, an octopus with “tentacles as pink as if they’ve just come from a scalding hot Japanese bath,” and fatty short ribs with smoked potato “cigars.” Virbila seems torn on Voltaggio, who she’s clearly sweet on, swinging wildly from astute praise to concerns about his fame, even labeling him as a “chef as carnival barker,” and calling out the patrons for being too studious. She concludes, “It’s a thrilling, giddy ride from plate to plate,” before dropping an ever-confusing two and a half stars on one of the town’s most luminous talents. [LAT]

Don’t look back: Michael Voltaggio at ink.

Jonathan Gold drops in on Josef Centeno’s Lazy Ox side-project, Bäco Mercat, where he notes the menu, “reads almost like a graduate exam in culinary poststructuralism,” given its far-flung regional and structural influences. “There is very little on this menu you won’t feel like eating,” he tempts. [LAW]

It’s hard to imagine a beefsteak dinner in our beloved car-centric L.A. could ever be the rowdy, rollicking, manly bacchanals we’re told went down in Joseph Mitchell’s New York, but with Neal Fraser doing the cooking, who is going to complain? Jonathan Gold hits a special one-off beefsteak dinner hosted by The Simpsons writer Matt “Patty and” Selman, with Fraser heading up Saint Vibiana’s, where he’s still trying to bring back his Grace. Fraser made blue cheese tarts before the meat platters came to be gingerly prodded by the forks of hipsters and Harvard grads. Then some fat dude danced on the table, “representing the abandon most of us would have aspired to if it hadn’t been so much work.” Sounds cool. Now will Selman please Simpsonize Mr. Gold? [LAW]

You say NYC street meat, and we say “Zach Brooks.” So does Jonathan Gold, who suggests getting your halal on at Arax Falafel. It isn’t really anything like Gotham street meat, but Gold is probably right when he argues, “the garlicky tahini sauce you can get in the best places is vastly preferable to the carts’ mayonnaise-based white sauce.” [LAW]

Virbila Inks Two and a Half Stars on Michael Voltaggio; Gold Bites Into Bäco