Sunday, April 25, 2004

Toby Young's Slate Diary on LA

Young is an English food critic and former writer for Vanity Fair. He's visiting LA for three months to write a book. Always entertaining to get an outsider's point of view on what LA is like. Here's a section I found interesting:

"I'm supposed to be on a three-month sabbatical from my day job—I work as a restaurant critic for the London Evening Standard—but I've found it impossible not to cast a professional eye over the restaurants here in Los Angeles. I've eaten out almost every day since I arrived, and my conclusion, for what it's worth, is that the worst restaurants in London are far worse, the ones in the middle aren't nearly as good, but the best—the very best—are better.

. . .

So, anyway, I didn't like the Ivy, and I've been equally unimpressed by the Palm, Morton's, Dantana's, and the Ivy at the Shore. (Not all visited on this trip.) I can't be sure my judgment hasn't been affected by being seated in Outer Siberia in every single instance, but my gut feeling is that the chefs just don't have access to the quality of ingredients that their equivalents do in London. I remember having a conversation about sourcing with the manager at Club Gascon, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Clerkenwell, and he told me that the sweetbreads on the lunchtime menu had been bought at the Rungis wholesale food market just outside Paris that morning. The reason the food is better at London's top restaurants is that Britain is closer to France.

However, once you drop down a couple of notches, L.A. knocks London into a cocked hat. The restaurant I've been most impressed by so far is the Cheesecake Factory in Brentwood. I had a cobb salad there last week that was every bit as tasty as the cobb salad I had at the Ivy, yet it was brought to my table in half the time and it was a quarter of the price. In Britain—indeed, in France—there just aren't any midmarket restaurant chains to match the quality of the Cheesecake Factory. And there are dozens of similar chains in this country that are equally first-rate. When it comes to this kind of food—good, solid, dependable fare at reasonable prices—America leads the world.

. . .

In conclusion, then, the distance between the best and the worst in L.A. isn't nearly as great as it is in London. In terms of your taste, if not your income levels, America is essentially a middle-class society. Britain, on the other hand, is still dominated by its traditional class system."

You can read the rest here. (from LAObserved)

No comments:

Blog Archive