The Other Critics

Russ Parsons Stumbles Onto Los Agaves; Gold Soaks Up Sunny Spot

Mixiote de borrego at Los Agaves, Santa Barbara
Mixiote de borrego at Los Agaves, Santa Barbara Photo: Los Agaves via Facebook

After 30 years, Russ Parsons still hasn’t learned that the crew at Santa Barbara’s Super Rica Taqueria take hump day off, so he gets stumped at the door before heading to Ricardo Garcia and Carlos Luna’s Los Agaves. Though they don’t really have many dishes in common, Parsons declares the food to be similar to its famous neighbor, “but mostly in the way that both are dissimilar to the standard Southern California taco-and-burrito lineup.” He skips the rack of lamb with mole poblano and Jenga-stacked duck flautas for queso fundido and tacos de rajas, insisting it’s “Not better, not worse, just different” from the oft-awarded name up the street. [LAT]

Praising the legend of Water Grill and its famous alumni, S. Irene Virbila feels “while all that made for great reviews, the restaurant might well have been too ambitious for much of the dining public. Most people just want a nice piece of fish, a whole Dungeness crab, broiled lobster or a few dozen Pacific oysters. And now that’s what the King brothers are giving them.” The critic accepts that the recently down-scaled restaurant “is more a straightforward seafood house than a fine dining restaurant that is aiming to set the culinary world on fire” and admits, “You couldn’t exactly call the menu exciting,” going so far as to say it works just fine as “an old-fashioned seafood house, which is maybe what Water Grill should have been all along.” [LAT]

“When a hoagie stuffed with pork terrine, sliced jalapeños, prosciutto and cheese seems to take its inspiration in equal parts from the Cuban sandwich, the Italian hero, the Mexican torta and the Vietnamese banh mi, you know you’re in Roy Choi country,” writes Jonathan Gold while soaking in the bass line and sunshine at Sunny Spot. But still him get vex so: “Sunny Spot, one suspects, may be the first of Choi’s restaurants to be less a passion project than a nicely executed work-for-hire,” Gold weeps and wails before questioning the “mushy” langoustines and meh jerk wings. He’s back on track with a grilled porterhouse declared to be “one of the better steaks in town,” and like everyone, falls for the rum bar. [LAT]

Russ Parsons Stumbles Onto Los Agaves; Gold Soaks Up Sunny Spot