The Other Critics

Gold Shouts Out Shunji; Rodell Revels in L&E Oyster Bar

“A dish as dense as mercury…” Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

West L.A.’s Shunji Japanese Cuisine is increasingly getting its shout-outs for chef Nakao’s meticulous way with produce rather than just for his seafood. Jonathan Gold is surprised to find a bowl of veggies “where you might be expecting an elaborate sea urchin presentation,” just as he’s taken aback to find the place occupying such a gritty corner of the city, “even by Los Angeles standards.” After describing some of the chef’s beautifully-constructed dishes, including the raw squid, black truffle, and uni ink-pot Gold labels “a dish as dense as mercury,” he reveals, “you can get through a meal here without seeing sushi at all.” Clearly stricken by the vegetables, the critic ends, “The arrangement has the solid inevitability of a Noguchi sculpture…Each vegetable is cooked or not cooked to the point where it expresses its optimal sweetness, squeaky raw or poached to lusciousness…You expect expensive wild sea bream to be treated reverently at a sushi bar. You do not expect the same care to be taken with a carrot.” [LAT]

Jessica Gelt details Casey Lane’s shrine to good drinking at The Parish, where the chef has created “a menu that was going to be able to stand up to cocktails.” While beer does the pairing work, she notes that, “only big, bold, bright flavors, like those found in the oyster poutine, can hold their own with complex drinks including the Black Bee, made with bourbon, lemon juice, two kinds of honey, and shots of both stout and porter beer.” [LAT]

Summing up the difficult task of a good neighborhood restaurant, Besha Rodell is really feeling L&E; Oyster Bar, enjoying a first visit dalliance with its “direct, affable service, a bracing glass of rosé and some very cold oysters” all of which “added up to a damn near perfect neighborhood restaurant experience.” Rodell notes ten well-procured varieties of oysters, from both coasts, and digs into the lesser known dishes like whole branzino, oysters Rockefeller, and house-smoked trout, calling the meal “bracingly fresh, simple and well executed.” More modern fare like a lobster spatezle (“which frankly sounded like a terrible idea,” she notes) and smoked mussels in a jar of olive oil don’t miss a beat either, though a few old geezers like a Louis-gooped crab salad go limp. Nonetheless, she writes, “it’s hard not to feel soothed and renewed, and immensely grateful for a neighborhood restaurant done right.” [LAW]

Gold Shouts Out Shunji; Rodell Revels in L&E Oyster Bar