Saturday was my own personal bacchanalia, with visits to LA Mill, SugarFish, Gourmet on Fire and Animal. Some panned out, one was panned and one was the pan o’ gold.
I tried to embed this video, but when I did the YouTube annotations wouldn’t show. Grr. Click here and you’ll see the day’s food adventures in all of their pop-up glory.
NOON LA Mill. First time since the opening-night event.
DISAPPOINTMENTS: A dearth of Bunsen burners meant I couldn’t order the super-duper Bill Nye the Science Guy coffee; made do wth a cup of Clover-brewed. Baked eggs were a little firm for my taste.
PLEASURES: The eggs’ toppings (wild mushoom/lardon, Dungeness crab) were delicious; next time, soft scrambles. And polenta is for breakfast with butternut squash, candied pecans and a dollop of mascarpone. Also noted on the way out: Salmon tartare that looked good enough to make us want to turn around and start over.
6 p.m. SugarFish. The new "casual concept" from Sushi Nozawa.
DISAPPOINTMENTS: None, really, once you get past the fact that this isn’t (and can’t be) a perfect replication of the original. It’s the Nozawa omakase translated for semi-mass production. The tuna sashimi is a tad less buttery; the crab hand roll is now sushi.
PLEASURES: Well, it’s Nozawa, innit? Love the spiffy interior (although Mrs. Nozawa said, "Oh, nooo!" when I asked if the dowdy Ventura Blvd. original would undergo a similar makeover. "Nozawa is old-style," she said. "Very Japanese.") Prices are very reasonable (you’re required to order one of three "Trust Me" menus, priced between $21-$36). Noted: Tax and tip are included in the listed prices; additional tipping is forbidden. They’re currently looking for a second Sugarfish location in Manhattan Beach.
7 p.m. Gourmet on Fire. The third annual food fest from Gourmet magazine.
DISAPPOINTMENTS. Better to quote Kevin Kline in "A Fish Called Wanda": "DISAPPOINTED!" Man, what happened here? The event began at 6 p.m.; by 7 p.m., Table 8 ran out of food. By 7:30 p.m., so did Joe’s. And since the event only had seven chefs on offer, that created half-hour lines for those remaining. The frustration also threw other tackinesses into sharp relief, such as wines provided exclusively by budget producer Cavit. C’mon, Gourmet, you’re Gourmet.
PLEASURES: Akasha’s did a grilled curry shrimp with green beans that reminded me I really need to visit her restaurant; the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel chef, saddled with the unlovely task of making something that featured event sponsor Pam cooking spray, grilled avocadoes (see! they don’t stick!) for handmade guacamole that also featured grilled tomatoes and jalapenos.
9 p.m. Animal. The brand-new restaurant that everyone will be talking about.
DISAPPOINTMENTS: Uh, that I’m a nimrod for initially writing this place off as a dimwit Food Network tie-in?
PLEASURES: We were still in the Loews hotel, discussing the Gourmet on Fire disaster, when Eater LA’s Lesley Balla began recounting the glories that were her two meals at Animal. When I began gnashing my teeth over the fact that Animal gave her the opportunity to try real mulberries, she suggested that we go, like, now. So we headed east, walked past the Kibitz Room at Canters, into the former T on Fairfax space and what could be the most exciting new restaurant in LA. (Caveat emptors: It’s not even open a week and I’ve been only once. I’ll be curious to see what J. Gold has to say — he’s been already).
OK, as for the rest of it: Small wine list that features quirky (yay!) choices like Aligot and dry Gewurtzraminer; melted Petit Basque with caramelized onions and dry chorizo (queso fundido as high-end pizza dip — yum); the most enormous soft-shell crab I’ve ever seen, tempura-fried with a Thai slaw; fried quail with greens, bacon, grits and gravy that was slap-the-judge good. And the desserts — chocolate pudding, stone-fruit crisp, golden raspberries and mulberries — were terrific. Especially those mulberries. Gentlemen, my apologies.