The Other Critics

Gold Meets Sqirl; Besha’s Back at Spago

Sqirl Cafe
Sqirl Cafe Photo: Sqirl Cafe

J. Gold pens this week’s think-piece on Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl Cafe, a Silver Lake newcomer that conjures consideration of Isaiah Berlin, small picture specialists, and the peerless toast he once tasted in Madrid. Koslow, who is “pretty masterful at capturing the specific nuances of fruit” in homemade jams she sold through our farmers markets, is now killing it by spreading said seasonal preserves, super-kind meats, and label-conscious produce on her own terrific toast, among other slices that he notes are “as dedicated to eggs and green vegetables as Animal is to dangling bits of swine.” He warns a certain kind of person that they could be bothered by the Siberian parking situation and a probing inquisition at the register, but counters, “if you enjoy chaos as much as you do toast smeared with chocolate ganache and almond-hazelnut butter….with poached egg, lemon zest and cream…with quince paste and transparent slices of prosciutto…Sqirl may well be your favorite place in the city.” [LAT]

Besha Rodell is back at Spago, peeping out the new look and menu which reads “like a highbrow tour of the globe, touching on Japan, Italy, China and France before landing firmly in Southern California.” Calling the New American parts of the expansive options “a little boring,” she writes, “It’s mind-boggling how many different corners of the globe this kitchen manages to touch on. It’s even crazier that it manages to do justice to every single type of cuisine it attempts.” Pastas get a major thumbs-up and Sherry Yard’s sweets remain the number-one stunner, one among many reasons to get there STAT, Rodell concludes, “while the excitement of this new incarnation is still fresh” and before Yard reinvigorates Helm’s Bakery much like Puck has restored his own flagship. [LAW]

Setting the scene at Stonehill Tavern, Brad A. Johnson writes, “Restaurants where the chef who does most of the cooking isn’t the one whose name is on the door can be tricky.” Still, he acknowledges the success stories who have turned this Michael Mina restaurant’s name into a major O.C. player. With Raj Dixit currently in the kitchen, “it’s hard to tell exactly where the protege’s influence begins and the master’s ends,” though the place “feels distinctly less whimsical than it has in the past.” This is good news when Johnson commands you to try the $29 fried Jidori chicken and mac and cheese, especially seeing as it’s the “cheapest entree on the menu.” Notably not so awesome, however, when Santa Barbara spot prawns come off “like a poor man’s shrimp cocktail.” The critic finds dishes mostly uninspired, impressed by “the smaller bites,” and dubbing Stonehill “yet another restaurant that suffers from premature climax,” after the chicken arrives and its followers not as breathtaking. But he happily rallies for a second round by the time dessert arrives, noting the sweet proof of “Mina’s staying power.” [OCR]

Gold Meets Sqirl; Besha’s Back at Spago