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Frank Bruni loves the Bazaar, has harsh words for Palate Food + Wine

March 18, 2009 |  4:47 pm

ThebazaarNew York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni came to our fair city recently as part of an ongoing effort to discover and highlight restaurants nationwide that he considers "Outstanding Newcomers." A restaurant can be considered only if it has opened since the start of 2008.

To that end Bruni was directed via "dining scouts and news media accounts" to the Bazaar, Animal and Palate Food + Wine. The Bazaar is the first restaurant to receive Bruni's "Outstanding Newcomer" tag. He mentions "ocassionally amateurish service" but other than that he is completely taken by Andres' brand of bold and playful molecular gastronomy, loving in particular the boiled potatoes, reimagined caprese salad and the liquid olives:

"As ambitious and sprawling and even phantasmagorical as the Bazaar by José Andrés is, it can be summed up in one $10 dish: a canapé, really.

I’m talking about olives. Then again, I’m not. The way Mr. Andrés serves them at this new restaurant, which opened four months ago, they’re more than that: a glimmer of new wave gastronomy, a glance backward toward culinary tradition and a commentary on what links the two. They’re the restaurant in miniature."

At Animal, Bruni discovers that pork is everywhere and uses the delightful word "carniwhore" (which I thought was solely employed to describe a vegetarian who sleeps with meat eaters):

"Animal isn’t a great restaurant, or at least it wasn’t when I tried it. But it’s the epitome of a promiscuously meaty approach to cooking that might well be called the carniwhore school.

The carniwhore school holds that no beast bests the pig in its multifaceted pleasures, that offal shouldn’t be relegated to just one or two dishes on the margins of the main feast, and that if you think something might taste better fried, go ahead and fry it, arteries be damned. What it promotes isn’t so much decadent eating as daredevil eating.

The ultimate carniwhore dishes nail a pig-offal-fried trifecta."

Finally, and surprisingly, Bruni comes down hard on Palate Food + Wine. The restaurant, which received three stars from Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila and made the top of Jonathan Gold's list of essential L.A. restaurants, doesn't even warrant a mention in print from Bruni. He reserves his lashing for the New York Times' "Diner's Journal" blog. During his time at Palate, Bruni says, he received extremely poor service (his server got off shift midway through dinner and his new server was clueless as to what was happening at his table. The restaurant also ran out of Mason jars and quartinos, and the food was extraordinarily bland, Bruni says.

He concludes with a withering observation about Palate's locale:

"But why the chatter about it, and the praise for it?

I think its location is a major factor. Situated between car dealerships in Glendale, well outside the fashionable and hip zones of Los Angeles, it has the feel of an off-the-beaten-track surprise.

My evening may well have not have been an entirely representative one. But it suggested to me that Palate is being graded on geographic curve."

I'm curious to hear some reader feedback about his writeups. Who agrees or disagrees?

— Jessica Gelt 

Photo: Philly cheesesteak at the Bazaar by Jose Andres Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times