How the L.A. Food Scene Changed This Year (Hint: Not Very Much)
L.A. seems to have made some headway this year in terms of being recognized as a dining destination. Even the bigwig New Yorkers are giving us props in the New York Post and GQ for our blossoming F&B scene. And rightfully so. We live in a great place when it comes to procuring good eats at an affordable price.
But that's not to say things don't get stale. Opening up gastropubs, my dear restauranteurs, have got to stop. (There are currently 222 listed on Yelp in L.A. proper.) And labeling a restaurant farm-to-table? That's just plain silly. It's expected that you should shop for fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. You're a chef. Same goes for small plates and communal tables. Enough already.
Gripes set aside, we've had a handful of interesting moments. We love how there have been interesting artistic collaborations, like the Stanley Kubrick and Cure-ATE dinner series at LACMA, For Your Art's pop-up food events, Pacific Standard Time-inspired meals at John Sedlar's restaurants, and modern interpretive dinner theater at Thank You For Coming. And there have been some incredibly inventive dishes coming out of non-restaurants such as Kevin Meehan's Kali Dining series, Miles Thompson's Vagrancy Project, and Ari Taymor's Alma, the latter of which now has a brick-and-mortar location.
Our friends over at Grub Street put together a list of some of these accomplishments and landmark news bites in 2012. Among them were a few major closures:
Evan Kleiman's Angeli Caffe closed on Melrose, Campanile was shockingly given the boot on La Brea, Paul Shoemaker shuttered Savory, Palate called it quits, and Micah Wexler's excellent, artistic Mezze disappeared, along with stalwarts on the scene like King Eddy's Saloon, Dar Maghreb, Drago, Yujean Kang's, and Sushi Nozawa.
Then there was the critic-shifting that went on with Jonathan Gold leaving the LA Weekly for the LA Times, the foie gras ban, the rise of caviar and cupcake vending machines, the popularization of Southern cooking at spots like Hart & the Hunter and Sassafras, and the extension of the pop-up/ underground dining trend, which got a nod from the New Yorker.
Grub Street also sites the proliferation of Japanese dish-specific specialists:
L.A. can already brag about superior sushi and kaiseki ninjas. This year, Westsiders waited in line, like so many Daikokuya-nuts in Downtown, for the rich bowls of tsukemen-experts Tsujita, leading to a boom of neighborhood noodlers. Elsewhere, Hannosuke exported its tempura donburi to a mini-mall, while the stage is being set for katsu crackerjacks Kimukatsu, Soba specialist Sojibo, and a Nippon-approved cosplay café called MaiDreamin to spread their wares.
But clicking through their gallery, we have to admit that there's a little bit less of a "wow factor" when compared with the East Coast openings. Of course, that's tough going when you consider New York's highlights, which include restaurants like Atera, the NoMad, Blanca, Pok Pok NY, Mission Chinese, Booker and Dax, and Il Bucco Alimentari.
There's nothing wrong with L.A. opening homey neighborhood-type restaurants that offer a little bit of comfort, but we hope things get a little bit more edgy in 2013.
Here's to not playing it safe in the new year.