The Other Critics

Maximiliano Hits Virbila’s Sweet Spot; Gold Follows That Thing in the Mall

Kyochon Photo: Arnold/Inuyaki via Flickr

“The intersection of cuisine and big business is rarely a happy one in Los Angeles…outside the San Gabriel Valley,” writes Jonathan Gold, who is visiting the food court at Westfield Culver City. We recently found perfection in a pint of “Lagunitas Sucks” with Westside Tavern’s lamb French dip while holiday shopping, but Gold isn’t wrong that the food court there is a dead-zone while Santa Monica Place’s reboot breaks many a local heart. Surprisingly, the Westfield Culver City food court “looks like L.A.,” with Kyochon, 101 Noodle Express, and Viet Gourmet making up for the disappointment at Five Guys Burger. He’s not overly pleased, but presses other mall owners to “pay attention.” [LAW]

When it comes to Italian, we actually sorta want to know what S. Irene Virbila has to say. She hits prolific Andre Guerrero’s Maximiliano in Highland Park, tying him to Senor Fred along the way in a senior moment of sorts (the family sold the Sherman Oaks Mexican long ago and gets really bummed when connected with it still). Here, she feels “his tribute to ‘kinda old school’ Italian-American cooking seems perfectly pitched for the area,” before going on to abuse the term “hipster.” She says the owner has “been smart about the menu” and knows people in the area who are stoked to find “homey dishes from their suburban childhood but better than remembered.” Though she descriptively dubs it “a good place to eat,” she also tells her Westside audience, that it “isn’t really the kind of place you’d drive across town to visit.” One and a half stars go to Guerrero and crew. [LAT]

Mr. Gold is asked about Jewish Iraqi food in L.A., something he suspects is out there, but hasn’t seen yet. Refusing to call “Pan-Middle Eastern” restaurant Mezze “Mediterranean” as they insist, Gold recalls a run-in with amba there, while throwing Kosher and “very, very Israeli” Aroma Cafe at the wall to see if its sambusek or sabich will stick. [LAW]

Milo & Olive is packed to the rafters and there sits a calm Jonathan Gold, drinking Vouvray and increasingly unconcerned at how long his damn pizza is taking. One can be perfectly happy without pizza, though, he argues, by selecting garlic knots, “slices of pumpkin roasted with honey and sage; clams steamed with garlic and tart white wine; crisply roasted duck legs with sauteed apples and blackened brussels sprouts,” but the whole wheat pizza is “nicely crisp, medium thin, and brawnier than you might expect.” Sure, they’re vastly more expensive than the Neapolitan motion machine at 800 Degrees, but we’ll be at Pitfire either way. [LAW]

Maximiliano Hits Virbila’s Sweet Spot; Gold Follows That Thing in the Mall